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How to be an executor – step by step guide

How to be an executor – step by step guide

How to be an executor – step by step guide

Becoming an executor of a Will is a serious and legally responsible role and so in this post, we thought we’d give you a guide as the steps the executor needs to take.

Being an executor doesn’t need to be complicated but you do need to be organised and following these steps will help when the time comes.

When the Will is made

When someone asks you to be an executor of their Will you need to think carefully about accepting the role as you’ll be placed in a position of great trust at what will be a difficult time.

There are legal responsibilities and indeed consequences for executors who do not carry out their duties properly.

You don’t need any special skills to be an executor but we would suggest that you need to be good at administration and be prepared to manage things in an ordered way.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that there is at least one other executor, especially with more complex estates as there are a lot of things to be done and it makes sense to be able to share the burden.

Once the Will has been made then you need to make sure that you know where it is kept and it’s a good idea to suggest that this is regularly reviewed to take account of any change in circumstances.

It’s also worth spending some time with the person who made the Will and gaining an understanding of what assets they have and where to find information about them.

You will need to know where to find information about their insurance and pension policies for example and any bank accounts, investments and savings.

If you would like to speak to a probate expert, call us free on 08001181603

Need to write a Will? Write your’s on the Smart Will App in 10 minutes for just £24.99 or £39.99 for couples.

When the person passes on

The first step in the process is to register the death.

This isn’t necessarily the responsibility of the executor but whoever does it should take the opportunity to get several copies of the death certificate at this stage as they are cheaper and it is easier than going back for more later.

Next, it is important to secure any movable assets.

You’ll need to make sure any property is secure and that utilities are switched off where necessary and appropriate. Contact the property insurers and inform them of the situation as many hose insurance policies don’t cover empty properties and you may need to replace the deceased as a policyholder.

You’ll also want to start to inform people that provided services to the deceased such as gas and electric providers, the local council, TV licencing, subscription services etc. This will stop any unnecessary charges being levied for things that are no longer required.

In England and Wales, there is a useful service that assists in informing government departments of a death. The ‘Tell Us Once’ service can be accessed here and there is also a postal service that will stop deliveries of unsolicited mail.

At this point, you will want to obtain a copy of the Will.

Hopefully, you know where this is stored and if it is with an institution you may need to provide ID and a copy of the death certificate to take possession of it.

[it may be an idea to include a sentence here about how easy it is to get the Will from Smartwill]

Take copies of the Will at this point but make sure you don’t staple or attach anything using a paper clip, Sellotape or Blu-tack as this can cause issues later on.

You can hand the copies to co-executors or beneficiaries and we’d suggest using a copy as your working document so you can make notes where needed. Put the original away in a safe place.

There may also be a letter of wishes that forms a type of addendum with extra, non-legally binding instructions.

If you would like to speak to a probate expert, call us free on 08001181603

Funeral arrangements

It’s not always the responsibility of the executor to arrange the funeral but there may be instructions in the Will regarding this so if the family are arranging the funeral you should let them know quickly.

There may also be instructions in a letter of wishes and these should also be communicated but are not legally binding.

Funeral plans and pre-paid funerals are becoming more popular and if the deceased had arranged one of these then you should contact the provider as soon as possible after death. Again, you may need a copy death certificate.

When you receive the invoice for the funeral arrangement then you can arrange for payment to be made by the deceased’s bank, however once again you may need a death certificate copy.

Need to write a Will? Write your’s on the Smart Will App in 10 minutes for just £24.99 or £39.99 for couples.

Understanding the estate

Before probate can be applied for the executor will need to value the estate. This includes all of the assets but also any debts that were in existence at the time of death.

Some of this will be easy, for example, cash in the bank or the proceeds of an insurance policy. Others may be more difficult and you may need help valuing a property or a specialist collection.

It’s also important to understand the ownership of assets. For example, a home may be owned jointly with a spouse and in this case, the tenancy will have a massive bearing on any tax paid and the future ownership.

During this time, you will need to make an inventory. See our helpful guide here.

Once you have an inventory of the estate and the values of the assets you can make an inheritance tax return and pay any tax due. This needs to be done before you can apply for probate. There are a number of exemptions and even some things that can be done at this stage to reduce inheritance tax paid so it can often be worth speaking with a professional advisor in this area.

If you would like to speak to a probate expert, call us free on 08001181603

Applying for probate

The next step is to make the application for a grant of probate.

This is the legal acknowledgement that you as executor has the right to administer the deceased’s affairs and only applies where they have made a valid Will.

For people who have died without a will then Letters of Administrations will be required.

At this point, you’ll need to fill in form PA1P which is the probate application form.

When you send this in you will also need to include; inheritance tax form IHT205 or IHT400, an original copy of the death certificate and the original Will and three copies.

This can also be done online however you will need to send the original and copies of the Will.

Again make sure that you get several copies of the Grant as they may be needed.

Assuming that the forms have been filled in correctly, probate should be granted within around 3-6 weeks.

You can find a more detailed guide to probate in our post here

Once probate is granted

When you have received the grant of probate you can begin the process of closing down and amalgamating the balances of any accounts and investments.

You’ll be free to close accounts for things like credit cards and request final bills from suppliers.

A sensible move is to open another bank account to stop estate money and costs being confused with your own money. Some banks even offer executors accounts that are specially designed for this purpose.

You’ll need to settle any outstanding debts due from the estate before you can distribute any money to the beneficiaries and it is a good idea to place advertisements (called statutory notice for creditors) in the local press and London Gazette requesting any creditors come forward with claims.

If you don’t place these then you may become liable for any future claims upon the estate.

If you would like to speak to a probate expert, call us free on 08001181603


Once you are happy that all debts have been paid then you can begin the process of distribution.

For some things, this may be relatively simple, where specific, named assets have been promised to one person for example.

You should draw up a list of all the items and cash values in the estate and produce an account of these together with any income such as interest or sales and any costs.

You’ll find this easier if you keep meticulous records and save receipts along the way and for the beneficiaries, this will be much more transparent.

Produce a statement for each person detailing what they have been left.

It may be that you can begin to distribute some value immediately, especially where it is held in cash but you may need to wait to hand out the value of a property until it is sold.

You must make sure that if you do make an interim payment that all debts have been paid and that you keep a reserve back for unexpected expenses.

You will also need to hand over form R185 to each beneficiary detailing their share of the estate.

Finally, make sure that you produce a final account of the transactions in the estate showing what was collected, paid and finally distributed to beneficiaries.

Being an executor – in summary.

As you can see there are quite a number of duties that an executor needs to carry out.

On their own, none of these are too onerous but taken as a whole they may seem overwhelming.

Our advice is to make sure you share some of the burden, either with your co-executors or with the family or friends of the deceased.

As you can see being organised in your approach is key as this helps reduce the amount of time you need to spend on each step and makes the whole process much more transparent.

If you come up against any obstacles or find the whole process too much at what is, after all, a difficult time then why not get in touch.

We have experts on hand to help you through the process of administering an estate and you could find this invaluable in carrying out what is a massively important role.

If you would like to speak to a probate expert, call us free on 08001181603

Need to write a Will? Write your’s on the Smart Will App in 10 minutes for just £24.99 or £39.99 for couples.



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