Being the executor of a will can be a huge responsibility. This can depend on a few things as well, like how organised the deceased was, how many executors and assets there are, debt, or even how many beneficiaries. There can be many different roles to play and various aspects to cover. Here we’ll look at some of the initial steps to take and how to complete the process of being an executor for a loved one.
What is an executor?
An executor is the person or persons named in a will who is responsible for dealing with the registering of the death and estate, as well as sorting out their financial affairs. It can be just one person but up to four executors can be chosen.
Steps to being an executor
Find the will – The will gives instructions to the executor, and this needs to be found and read through before anything else. They are usually kept either at home or with a solicitor. They could also be kept with a bank, probate service or with us! Check out our Wills FAQs to find your options. ✍️
Register the death - This needs to be done with the local registry office. You will need to register the death and get copies of the certificate. You can find more details about how to do this in our article about getting a death certificate when someone dies.
Organise the funeral – One of the first things you'll want to check is if they had a funeral plan or insurance. Again, this is where we at Bequest are making a splash. You can have all of your information and insurance in one place, one platform, organised and connected to your loved ones. If they don’t have either of these, it is the executor who will be responsible for the funeral costs. If the deceased had money in their bank account, you won't be able to access this in time for the funeral, but you can usually deduct this cost from their estate at a later date.
It’s important to check the will for any funeral arrangements they had wished for. (If you are creating a will, it’s so helpful to be as clear as possible to help your loved ones out!) However, not everyone states this in their will and instead will simply make their wishes informally known to family. You can share the responsibility of funeral arrangements with the family and anyone who wants to be involved.
Value the estate – The estate is the term for all the assets someone has, whether that is cash, shares, property possessions or anything else. You need to get a list of everything they owned, as well as a list of all the debts they had such as mortgages and loans. 💷
Assets such as property or high-value items will usually require a professional valuation. If the estate is worth more than £325,000, then you have to pay inheritance tax. If the estate is particularly complex, then it may be worth looking into getting some help to figure it all out.
Apply for probate – It’s important to note that you can’t apply for probate until you’ve either paid your inheritance tax due or informed the HMRC that no tax is due. A grant of probate will then give you the right to deal with the estate.
You can either apply for probate via your local registry but you can also do it online. You'll need the death certificate and also the original will. It's also best to get several copies of the grant of probate as this will allow you to get everything done more quickly and easily with utility companies, council, banks etc.
Sort financial affairs – This step can be quite exhaustive. The first step is to contact any organisation/company where there is a transfer of money such as pensions, banks, bills, insurance companies, phone contracts, TV licence and anything else you can think of.
The government does offer a "Tell Us Once" service that reports the death to all government organizations including the DWP, HMRC, Passport Office, DVLA and local council. With everything else, it can be a good idea for the executor to delegate some of the work to other family members. Hopefully, the deceased kept all relevant documents together and you are able to find all of these fairly easily. 🤞
Open an executor’s account – This is optional but can be a good idea if the estate is particularly complicated or you fear that it may be contested. This account will be used solely for the estate so you have a clear record of any incomings or outgoings.
Distribute the estate – Finally, you'll get to distribute the estate under the terms of the will. There are different types of gifts that can be left in the will and it can get more complicated. Again, a solicitor can help with any potential issues that may arise, such as money being left in a trust, which would then need to be set up. The executor will then be responsible for any residual assets that weren’t covered in a will, which often covers possessions.
What if you don’t want to be the executor?
Sometimes being the executor of someone’s will is not the right thing to do. Side note for those creating a will: please ask the person you are putting down as an executor so they can confirm and are prepared for this. However, you can ask someone else to apply for probate on your behalf and you could also renounce your right as an executor if you want to refuse. These both require you to fill out forms.
You don’t have to do it alone
Being an executor can feel like a huge undertaking. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Family and friends are usually eager to help out in any way they can. Also, you can choose to use a solicitor who will help you with any complex legal matters. When people write their will with us, you can also choose to appoint our partners, JP Estate Planning as professional executors and this can be changed at any point in the process back to family or whomever you wish. You’re not alone! 💛