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Taking on the role of executor should be done with plenty of thought, as it can lead to a mountain of work and sorting out any assets from the estate can take months.
There may be property, bank accounts, debts and other possessions, and payment of any inheritance tax due, which all take meticulous care and attention. Even with the best intentions, executors can overlook small details or eventualities - and they can be held personally liable for any consequences.
It is also worth remembering that an executor of your will may not necessarily the same person/s you appointed to act as your attorney/s during your lifetime, as there is a big difference in these roles. Of course, an individual can nominate the same person/s to be both their attorney/s and executor/s - but it should not be assumed that one and the other are interchangeable without the correct documentation. A attorney/s can only act during your lifetime. When you die your Lasting or Enduring Power of attorney documents in effect die with you.
The workload for an executor is not to be taken lightly. These are just some of the tasks to consider.
Inventory of all assets
The best place to start is with a list of all assets belonging to that individual, so that you can notify any companies that an individual has died. This could include pensions and investments, any property or savings, but any debts or tax bills will need to be settled before beneficiaries can inherit. Exact details need to be obtained
Where’s the will?
There is also the will itself; it needs to be located. The will appoints the executors so they need this to apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate.
You’ll need to complete the correct documentation for HMRC
Once the Grant of probate is obtained you will need to open a specific bank account, often called an executors account, so that you can start closing the deceased accounts and arrange sell their home and/or assets and decide how best to deal with any investments. All funds will need to be placed into this executors account and any spends, or outgoings must be written down and accounted for - such as settling bills or other liabilities the estate may have. Executors are also allowed to claim for their reasonable expenses - but they are not entitled to be paid simply for their role as executor. All details need to be included in estate accounts to show what has been done and produced to the residuary beneficiaries. If these are charities, then they must be satisfied that everything has been properly dealt with.
Of course, you’d always hope that executing a will should run as smoothly as possible, however, in my line of work, I quite often see clients who have run into problems with relatives of the deceased. Particularly those who can’t agree on the sale of a family home, for example, or disagreements as to how funds have been allocated from the estate.
The best way to deal with any disagreement is to make sure wills are always kept up to date and that communications remain open with family members as much as possible.
If you would like some advice relating to your own will, either writing a new one or updating a will, or you’d like some information relating to Lasting Powers of Attorney, probate or family disputes raising from a deceased’s estate, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help