Most people are aware that they have been appointed an executor because they would have been asked some time before the death. Its not an easy job and although you can later renounce being an executor of the will, it’s preferable to let the testator (the person making the will) know so they can choose an alternative.
Being executor of the will can be complicated and time-consuming at a time when you may well be upset by the loss of a friend or family member. If you have been appointed an executor you need to think carefully about whether you want the responsibility of being executor. Once you start dealing with the estate it is very difficult to stop being an executor.
On the plus side, being an executor of the will allows you to make sure your friend or relative’s wishes are respected. You will also be able to look after the interests of the beneficiaries. Often, one or more beneficiaries will be asked to be executor of the will.
If the will does not name any executors, the beneficiaries have the right to apply to act as administrator. If there is no will at all, then the closest relatives – who will inherit under the rules of intestacy – can apply to take on the role of estate administration.
What does an executor of a will do?
Estate administration involves identifying the deceased’s assets and debts, paying off creditors, and then distributing what’s left.
If you are named as executor of the will, you automatically become responsible for estate administration when the testator dies.
However, you normally need to apply for a grant of probate before you can get the official authority to deal with the assets. As part of this, you work out the value of the estate and complete inheritance tax forms for HM Revenue & Customs.
If inheritance tax is payable, you’ll need to pay some or all of the tax due.
Estate administration can be complex, particularly if the estate is large or complicated or if there is likely to be any kind of a dispute.
As executor of the will, you have significant responsibilities and potential liabilities. For example, if you start paying out inheritances before repaying debts you might be held personally responsible.
If in any doubt, consider appointing a solicitor to help with estate administration.