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How to be an executor of a will

View profile for Heather Nuttall
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If someone asks you to be the executor of their will, following their death there are several things you’ll need to do. Here’s an overview to help you fulfil your responsibilities as an executor.

What is an executor?

An executor is legally responsible for handling someone’s estate (including their money, property and other possessions) when they die. As an executor, you’ll also be responsible for carrying out the instructions in their will.

You can act as an executor even if you’re going to inherit from the will. In fact, executors are often family members. A will can name up to four executors, so the responsibility is shared and all decisions must be made jointly. Executors can also include a professional, such as a solicitor.

Before you agree to be an executor

Being an executor is an important responsibility, can be time consuming and might be the last thing you feel like doing if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one. The tasks involved can sometimes take months to complete so think carefully before agreeing to take on the responsibility of being an executor.

I agreed to be an executor but I’ve changed my mind

Once you’ve been named as an executor, if you later change your mind you have a few options:

If possible, talk to the person who appointed you as they will need to change the name of the executor in their will.

After the person has died:

  • discuss your options with the Probate Registry or a legal professional
  • before you begin to deal with the estate, you might need to complete a form of Renunciation
  • once you’ve started to deal with the estate, you will not be able to step down without good reason e.g. ill health.

What do executors do?

  • Ensure all property owned by the deceased is secure as soon as possible after their death.
  • Collect all assets to their estate.
  • Pay any outstanding taxes and debts from the estate
  • Distribute the estate to those people entitled to it under the terms of the will
  • Ensure appropriate funeral arrangements are made

An executor’s duties can include:

  • registering the death
  • obtaining copies of the will
  • arranging the funeral
  • valuing the estate
  • taking responsibility for property and post
  • applying for probate
  • sorting out finances
  • distributing the estate
  • paying any Inheritance Tax
  • dealing with assets

More detailed guidance on the duties of an executor is available in this downloadable guide from Age UK

For expert legal advice please contact our wills and probate specialists in Halifax, Huddersfield or Brighouse.