Duties of the Executor
One of the most fundamental elements of any will is the naming of the executor or executors. These should be trusted individuals who have been consulted prior to their nomination. Crucially, they must be prepared to do some practical work with regard to the settling of the deceased individual’s estate.
In the terms of the law, the executor is required to ‘collect, get in, and administer according to law the estate of the deceased’. In more specific terms, it is their duty to execute the wishes of the deceased. In this way, their first responsibility will be to settle any outstanding debts which are owed by the estate, and to assess any such claims made by banks or other financial institutions.
Following this they will be required to arrange for payment of any inheritance tax which may be owed by the estate and, of course, to carry out the disbursement of the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries. Finally, it will also fall to the executor to investigate the possibility of any further heirs.
It is possible for a solicitor or professional executor to be named in a will. However, if, as is generally the case, a family member or friend has been nominated, they may choose to enlist the help of such a third party to aid them in their work. In these cases, the named executor has a substantial amount of choice as to how much of the work he or she carries out; a solicitor could be employed to carry out almost all the work or, alternatively, only a small proportion of it. The executor’s decision as to whether to enlist such help will of course be affected by the complexities of the affairs in question; in many cases, their duties will be no more than the disbursement of the contents of a bank account.
Whether or not help from a third party is arranged, the named executor will be expected to carry out at least some of the work. Most frequently this entails performing the initial tasks associated with locating and valuing the deceased individual’s assets. Again, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, this can be a very simple or a very complex task. Similarly, it is often expected that the executor will make the appropriate funeral arrangements, in line with the directions given in the will.
At a very minimum, the executor should assume that they will be required to lend their signature to a variety of documents.
In the first instance, and before any other action is taken, the executor must receive legal ratification of his or her right to take control of the assets in the estate. This requires them to apply for a Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry, which it will be necessary to produce before any bank or other relevant institution will hand over control of assets.
Although executorships can be a significant amount of work, it should be noted that the individuals in question are legally entitled to be reimbursed their expenses from the estate. The task should not, therefore, be to their financial detriment.
Duties of the Executor Continued
The process of writing and interpreting a will seems simple to begin with; surely it is just a case of deciding who should inherit your property, and then putting it in writing? Unfortunately, from the very beginning of the process, making a will involves a string of legal terms and often confusing jargon. One of the most fundamental of these terms (and, usefully, one of the simplest) is ‘executor’. This describes the most important individual to be named in the will, and it is therefore important to understand exactly what the term means.
In its broadest sense, the legal and literal meanings of the word are much the same; the executor is simply one who executes, or carries out, a task. In the case of a will, the executor is the individual who is charged with carrying out the tasks outlined by the writer.
The directions given in the will may well be complicated and, as such, the executor may have many and varied tasks to carry out. The most important of these is likely to be the disbursement of the deceased individual’s estate to the beneficiaries named in the will.
Before this can be done, however, the executor will also be required to arrange for payment of the deceased’s remaining debts to be made, and to deal with outstanding claims from creditors. Furthermore, they will be required to calculate and pay tax which might be owed from the estate. Normally the largest such outlay will be inheritance tax, but there may be further unpaid sums which must be accounted for. Another key part of the job of executor is to seek out any other possible heirs, and to assess any claim they might have to part of the estate. Finally, they will be responsible for any other arrangements stipulated in the will, such as donations to charity.
An executor can also be known as a personal representative; they legally represent the deceased’s estate and, as such, assume various rights and responsibilities. In most cases the executor can be sued on behalf of the estate, making it a less than enticing post if the deceased’s affairs are not entirely in order. It should also be noted that the executor automatically acquires the title to any property which falls within the estate. In this way, they act as the owner of any property to which a life tenant has a claim. The executor may not, of course, use these titles for their own benefit, unless this is explicitly provided for in the will.
The post of executor is a difficult one and, as such, it is sometimes the case that, upon the death of the writer of the will, the appointed executor no longer feels capable of discharging their duties. In these cases, or in cases of intestacy, an administrator may be appointed instead. This individual will take on the same responsibilities but will have to apply for Letters of Administration to acquire legal authority.
Our Executor and Probate service
An executor is responsible for administering the estate and distributing the assets in accordance with the Will. Sometimes a loved one may die without having left a Will, however their estate must still be dealt with according to the Law. To ensure that your wishes and those of your loved ones are adhered to and in accordance with the rules and laws of probate, it is standard and a worthwhile practice to appoint a professional and experienced firm.
Here at Life Planning Solutions and Assured Probate Services, we are proud to lead the way in caring and responsible probate and estate administration. We provide an incomparable and cost-effective service where we will administer the estate from start to finish for a fixed fee. Our fees really do provide affordable peace of mind.
For further information please speak to your Assured Probate Services Executive: