In most cases, executors of a Will are usually close family and friends, who you would rely on to ensure that your estate is distributed as per your wishes after death. Executors deal with the administrative part of the Will and ensuring that all assets are distributed, so generally, this is somebody you have a lot of trust in to ensure that this happens.

It's one thing to have an executor in place in your head, but a completely different scenario if the executor doesn't know they've been named to act out your wishes. A recent study has found that three out of four people who have produced a Will during lockdown haven't discussed their wishes with close friends and family. Demand for Wills during this time has soared, with many people taking stock of their situation and preparing for the potential worst-case scenario.

As part of the research, a survey of 2,000 adults in found that seventy-four percent hadn't discussed their Wills and wishes with friends and family, with twenty-nine percent not knowing the role an executor takes. The survey also found that a quarter had been an executor for an estate, with a quarter of this figure admitting that they found the role of an executor stressful.

From the outset, it is always best to speak to your executor as soon as possible. Get them involved in the production of your Will so they know what your wishes and expectations are, ensuring they are comfortably on-board and happy to take on the role. It is best to do this at the earliest opportunity to ensure that your executor agrees to take on the responsibility. Should you find later down the line that an executor is not happy to conduct your affairs after death, this will involve changes to the Will with further costs being incurred for amendments.

What is involved in being an executor?

In essence, after the death of a loved one you are charged with ensuring their estate is finalised and their wishes (this could be financial but also minor details and funeral arrangements etc). There are a number of jobs that an executor will undertake, most of them typical, but depending on the circumstances, further legal advice may be required. Here are some top tips on carrying out the duties of an executor:

  • Seek legal advice and support if you're unsure
    If you've never acted as an executor before then chances are you will find you will not fully understand the process or your responsibilities. It is always best to legal guidance if you find that you're your unsure about any aspect of the role. At Holmes Family Law we can help and advise you to ensure the correct course of action, guiding you through the legal aspects of executing a Will. Don't worry about the costs of any legal advice - this is paid directly out of the deceased's estate.

  • Report the death
    It is the responsibility of the executor to report the death to the relevant authorities and service providers. The obvious examples here are Government departments including the DWP and DVLA but may also include banks and building societies, utility companies, landlords and communications providers. It is also important to stop any ongoing payments such as standing orders and direct debits until liabilities can be calculated and the estate is assessed.

  • Keep open communication channels
    The wishes of the deceased may involve leaving assets to a number of beneficiaries. It is the job of the executor to ensure that these wishes are carried out and the estate is divided as per the Will. Keeping open communication channels between all parties is imperative, as this will reduce the chance of conflict.

  • Find out if probate is required
    Probate may be required if the value of the estate exceeds the threshold of £15,000. In this case, you must apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate to be issued. At Holmes Family Law we can advise on probate, speak to our Team to find out more.

  • Find out the value of the estate and pay any liabilities
    It is imperative to find out the value of the estate and investigate if there are any liabilities due including outstanding tax. This will also help you understand if there is tax relief available and ensure that the remainder of the estate can be distributed as per the Will. We recommend that you seek legal advice as early as possible as this reduces any errors which may impact the execution further down the line.

  • Account for every penny and keep records
    One of the most important aspects is to ensure that any assets of the estate are kept separate from your own personal assets. All money must be accounted for down to the penny, and records should be kept for every transaction should this ever be queried by a beneficiary of the estate.

What is the best way to inform an executor?

As mentioned previously, it is imperative that you inform an executor at the earliest possible stage, preferably before a Will is prepared. Ask permission from the executor and ensure that they understand the aspects of the role and what will be required after your death. It is important that they are aware of your wishes and expectations. Ensure that they are happy to carry out the role, and they can spend the time required. 

What if I find out that I'm an executor after the death?

You can renounce your responsibility of being an executor after the death of a person but this must be done immediately after being informed, and before the role is accepted and any disbursements are made from the estate. Should the need arise for further legal advice or support, the executor has the ability to charge this back to the estate.

Need advice on preparing or executing a Will?

At Holmes Family Law, our team of expert Will and Probate Lawyers can advise you of the legal complexities in ensuring your family is taken care of once you have gone. Are you an executor of a Will and need further legal advice? Talk to the expert Wills & Probate consultants today on 0191 5009337 or 01670 707338 during office hours.

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