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Understanding the Role of an Executor

Posted on the 28 February 2013 by Jason Cherrington

As an Executor your role is to administer the estate on the death of the Testator. A testator is a person who has written and executed a last will and testament that is in effect at the time of his/her death. It is any "person who makes a will." The Will and estate planning that has been put in place will ensure that their assets will be going to those they wish when they die.

An executor has to carry out certain tasks in order to legally fulfill the obligations of the task. As executor you should therefore:

• Obtain a copy of the medical certificate indicating cause of death and a formal notice from the doctor if the family members do not wish to do so.

• Register the death at the local Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages if there are no family members wishing to do so. The death must be registered in order to obtain the  death  certificate.

Nb. It is advisable to get more than one copy as it will be needed when dealing with Insurance companies, pension providers etc.

• Could be responsible for making sure any last wishes such as organ or body donations are carried out. The job might also include planning for the funeral or cremation and arranging for  payments for the services provided.

• Make sure you have the last original will of the deceased. The testator should have notified you as to the location of this.

• Locate all the heirs. This might seem like an easy task and if there are just a couple of children and they are the only ones named in the will, it is easy. If there are numerous heirs and they  are named in the will either collectively or individually, the executor must locate each and every one.

• Make an exhaustive list of all the assets of the estate, from personal to real property, to bank accounts, investments etc. and also all the debts including credit cards, utility bills, loans etc.

• It is advisable to open a separate account into which money paid into the estate can be credited. This will prevent estate monies being confused with personal finances.

• Notify all businesses of the death e.g. utility companies credit card companies, banks, council tax offices, social security etc.

• Make sure that all the deceased’s debts are settled before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.

• If there are minor or dependent children, the executor could be responsible for arranging for their care and placement. The deceased might have their wishes stated in the will but if not, the  courts might need to be involved in the placement. If there are pets, the executor will need to care for them and make arrangements for their continued care.

• Pay any Inheritance Tax necessary.

• You must declare the value of the estate to HMRC on an Inheritance Tax return, within 12 months of death.

• Payments of the deceased’s tax is your personal responsibility.

• Contact the local Probate Registry to either obtain the Grant of Probate or the Grant of Administration.

• Distribute the contents of the will making sure that if anything is to be left to minors, a trustee has been named.

• After you have completed all of your tasks, you will need to produce a full set of accounts for the beneficiaries showing the estate assets and liabilities, administration income and expenses and how the estate has been distributed.

Without a Will in place the laws of intestacy take over and the courts will decide where assets go.


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