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How To Be The Executor Of Someone's Will

Preparing for Death

Being the executor is a will is a huge responsibility. There are many different roles to play and various aspects to cover. Here we’ll look at the initial steps you need to take while also looking at how to complete the process in terms of how to be an executor.

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, sorting out their financial affairs, and dealing with the estate. It can be just one person but up to four executors can deal with an estate.

The step-by-step process for an executor

Here we’ll look at the steps you need to take to be the executor of someone’s will

Finding the will – The will give 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 will-writing company, bank or with the probate service.

Organizing the funeral – One of the first things you'll want to check is if they had any funeral plan or insurance. If not, it is the executor who will be responsible for the funeral costs. If the deceased had money in their bank then you won't be able to access this in time for the funeral, but you can deduct this cost from their estate at a later date.

It’s also important to check the will for any funeral arrangements they desired. Many people don’t state this in their will and instead will simply make their wishes informally know to family. You may want to share the responsibility of funeral arrangements with the family.

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 using a probate solicitor to guide you through.

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 lead right to deal with the estate.

You can either apply for probate via your local registry but you can also now do it online. You'll need the death certificate and also the original will. It's best to get several copies of the grant of probate as this will allow you to get everything done much quicker.

Sorting financial affairs – This step can be quite exhaustive as there is plenty to do. The first step is to contact any organization where there is a transfer of money such as pensions, bank, 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 which can make it easier. If you wanted to cover your back you could place a statutory advertisement that notifies creditor that and estate will be distributed. After two months, you'd be free to distribute the funds but many people avoid this step as they feel it isn't required. If you don't do this and it's found that the deceased owed money that you didn't know about, you may then become personally liable.

Opening 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.

Distributing 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 such as the will dictating that more money should be given than what is available.

There may also be other complexities such as money being left in a trust, which would when 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 won’t be the right thing to do. You can ask someone else to apply for probate on your behalf. You can also simply 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. Families 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. If you use a solicitor, then their fees can be claimed from the estate so you won’t be left out of pocket. When you write your will with Bequest, you can choose to appoint our partners, JP Estate Planning as professional executors.

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