Whether your appointment as an executor came as a surprise or was expected, it can be a daunting task.
Once a person has died, the executors named in the Will are the people with the right to deal with the deceased’s property and belongings, and this often comes as a surprise to people who may have been listed as the deceased’s next of kin or appointed as an attorney under a Power of Attorney.
As an executor or administrator, your role includes:
- Working with other named executors
- Arranging the funeral (although this is not exclusively a duty of executors or administrators)
- Notifying all companies that the deceased had dealings with of the death
- Valuing the assets and debts of the deceased
- Completing the application for a Grant of Probate, including the Inheritance Tax Return and identifying applicable Inheritance Tax exemptions or reliefs
- Paying the Inheritance Tax
- Dealing with the tax affairs of the deceased up to the date of death and for the period of estate administration
- Closing accounts or selling assets
- Distributing the estate and accounting to the beneficiaries
Estates might be easier to manage where they involve a small number of low value assets and one or two beneficiaries. In these cases a Grant of Probate may not be required for companies to release assets to you or, if a Grant is required, a simplified Inheritance Tax Return may be sufficient to apply for the Grant.
However, estates can be complicated if the person dies without leaving a Will, if there are assets in other countries, if the deceased owned a business, where there is Inheritance Tax to pay, if there are complicated tax exemptions to apply for, or if the Will includes a Will Trust.
The recent case of Harris v HMRC  UKFTT 204 emphasises the need for executors to fully understand their role and obligations. In this case, the personal representative (PR) was found to be personally liable for an outstanding Inheritance Tax bill of just over £340,000. The PR, Mr Harris, had transferred the assets in the estate to a beneficiary on the basis that the beneficiary would settle the Tax. The beneficiary did not settle the unpaid Tax liability and Mr Harris was found to be liable, as the PR, despite the fact that Mr Harris no longer had access to the assets and could not contact the beneficiary.
Depending on your experience, time commitments and the complexity of the estate you may decide to seek the help of solicitors. Whether you would like help to complete the paperwork necessary to apply for the Grant of Probate, or you decide that you need assistance in the full administration, our team would be more than happy to discuss the range of ways in which we can assist you.
For further advice on this, please contact our Wills, Tax & Estate Administration department.