Choosing your executor is perhaps the biggest decision you have when making your will. They will have an enormous amount of responsibility and paperwork to complete which can be extremely time consuming.
The person you choose should therefore be organised and methodical and you should check they are willing to take on this duty, before naming them in your will.
Here's what your executor will need to do once you appoint them:
Firstly, you will need to register the death. This can be done at the local register office in the district where the person died. If you cannot make it to the register office where the death was registered, you can go to your local office and request the certificate be transferred there.
You now need to find the will. You should have been told by the testator where to find it. If not, it could be kept with the deceased’s personal belongings, their solicitor or a will writing service.
Contact all organisations associated to the deceased (utility providers, banks, etc) and value the assets they hold. We have produced a range of template letters which you can fill out and send off to quicken this part of the process and make your job easier. You should also value property and possessions. It is recommended you use professional services to do this, especially if the deceased owned expensive properties or possessions as HMRC will issue a fine if you provide inaccurate information.
Once you have an accurate value of the estate, you need to report it to HMRC here: www.gov.uk/valuing-estate-of-someone-who-died/tell-hmrc-estate-value
This will give you the authority to distribute the estate to beneficiaries listed in the will. You can apply here: www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance/applying-for-a-grant-of-representation
There’s normally no Inheritance Tax to pay if either the value of the estate is below the £325,000 threshold or, the testator left everything above the £325,000 threshold to a spouse, civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports club. The standard Inheritance Tax rate is 40% and is only charged on the part of the estate that’s above the threshold. As executor you will be required to settle any outstanding debts owed by the deceased on behalf of the estate. If you do not have the funds available, you can contact their bank, and may be able to request that a Direct Payment Scheme (DPS) be set up. This will allow the withdrawal of available funds to pay off this debt. If there are not enough funds in either your accounts, or the accounts of the deceased, then it may be necessary to take out a loan to cover these costs.
Once probate is granted, you will need to collect all the financial and physical assets of the deceased, and pay any outstanding debts using their finances (if available). The same process as above will need to be followed if the funds are unavailable.
Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries as the will dictates. These are the people who have been left inheritance by the Testator and will include money, gift items, or property.
This will consist of all the documents you have acquired over the course of probate. They should be collected and show:
The main beneficiaries of the will should sign to confirm you have upheld your role as executor and that these documents are accurate. We have provided a template cover letter for you which you can find here. You should hold on to these documents, storing them securely for up to 20 years as HMRC may request them for evaluation.
Some people choose to leave their executor a sum of money or access to their bank account so that they can carry out their duties without having to use their own money.
Some people choose a bank or solicitor as their executor and some seemingly ‘cheap’ will writers rely on you appointing them. Typically, their fees range from 2% of your estate for a solicitor to 4.7% of your estate for a bank, so if your estate is worth £300,000 then between £6,000 and £14,100 is taken by them instead of the money going to your beneficiaries.
Unless your estate is unduly complicated, or not subject to Inheritance Tax, you shouldn’t need either a bank or a solicitor to be your executor. Save money and appoint a family member instead.