Duties of Executors

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  1. Register the death of the testator. Obtain copies of the death certificate; several may be required not only before the funeral takes place but also for each of the funds that may have to be released or transferred e.g. bank accounts, insurance policies, shares and other equities. Try to gauge how many copies are needed. Many organisations will need sight of an original Death Certificate before releasing funds. Copies obtained from the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages are regarded as ‘originals’ as opposed to a photocopy of the certificate.
  2. Arrange the funeral – The cost will usually be the first expense paid from the deceased’s estate. Make enquiries about the existence of a prepaid funeral plan – these are becoming increasingly popular amongst retired people wishing to guard against the effects of inflation.
  3. Arrange to open a Personal Representative’s bank account. This will be used for the receipt of money due to the estate and any loan arranged to pay an Inheritance Tax bill and/or probate fees.
  4. Inform all relevant persons and organisations – banks, building societies, life assurance companies, employers, local authorities, Inland Revenue, benefit agencies etc.
  5. Arrange for a valuation of the Estate. This will include the house and its contents, other personal effects, investments in savings plans, equities, life policies, building societies etc. Draw up a detailed schedule of all the testator’s assets.
  6. Draw up a full schedule of debts that must be paid from the proceeds of the estate. These will include mortgages, income and capital gains taxes, bills, credit cards, loans and overdrafts.
  7. Complete the appropriate forms to obtain a Grant of Probate. If the net estate is greater than the current threshold for Inheritance Tax, complete the forms required by the Inland Revenue Capital Taxes Office so that it can be established whether any Inheritance Tax is due. These forms should then be sworn and lodged at the Probate Registry. When Inheritance Tax is due the Executor’s account of the Estate is passed to the Inland Revenue and the Grant of Probate cannot be issued until the tax is paid. There will be circumstances where part of the estate has to be sold to pay Inheritance Tax and if this is the case banks can arrange loan facilities to pay the tax straight away.
  8. When the Grant of Probate is received, this must be sent together with the appropriate withdrawal or closure forms in respect of each asset of the estate. To speed administration, it is advisable to obtain a number of Official Office Copies of the Grant of Probate. These can be obtained at any time, but would normally be requested when the application for a Grant of Probate is submitted to the Probate Registry. The Executors now have a legal authority to pursue any debts owing to the estate, and these should be collected in.
  9. Once all of the assets have been collected in and prior to distributing the estate, the Personal Representatives should arrange for the insertion of the appropriate Trustee Act notices in a local paper and the London Gazette so that they can distribute the estate without incurring personal liability in respect of any debts due from the estate to third parties.
  10. When the period specified in these notices has elapsed, the estate can be distributed. The Personal Representatives should ensure that the terms of the Will are followed exactly. They must prepare distribution accounts giving full details of the assets and liabilities of the estate, and showing how the net estate has been distributed. They must be able to show that they have acted in accordance with the Will in case there is any dissent from the family of the deceased.
  11. All papers, including the Grant of Probate and the Estate Accounts must be stored safely for a period of 12 years from the date of completion of the administration of the estate. This period will be longer where there are still minor beneficiaries or other interests which are still held in trust after 12 years have elapsed.