Duties of a Will Executor: What They Do

After someone dies, their estate will have to be dealt with – and someone will have to be in charge of doing it.

If the person who died had a Will, they will have chosen an executor to take on that role. If there is no Will, an administrator will apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This allows them to deal with the estate.

Having a Will – and an executor – means that the person can choose a responsible and reliable person to handle their estate after they’re gone. So if you’ve been asked to be the executor of a loved one’s Will, you may want to know what you’ll have to do.

Main executor duties

An executor has to carry out a number of tasks after the death of the person who made the Will. Some of these duties can be complicated, so it’s important to take that into consideration when writing your Will.

Regardless of the size of the estate that’s been left, it has to be distributed after a death. The executor will have to identify all assets belonging to the person who has dies, have their values assessed, identify any debts left by the deceased, and distribute anything left over.

Some of the main executor duties are:

  • Registering the death

This has to be done within five days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and eight in Scotland. It’s not required that the executor register the death, but if no one else can do it – such as if the deceased had no family – then they may have to.

  • Locating the Will

If you’re asked to be an executor, make sure you find out where the Will is being stored. This will help to avoid confusion at a difficult time. The Will can contain important information about the funeral wishes of the person who has died.

  • Arranging the funeral

If funeral instructions have been left, it’s the executor’s duty to make sure they’re followed. Other loved ones of the person who died may want to help arrange the funeral so you probably won’t have to deal with this part on your own.

  • Identifying all assets and debts left behind

You’ll have to compile all of the assets left behind by your loved one, as well as their debts. This includes properties, vehicles, jewellery, furniture, cash, stocks and shares and all other personal belongings. You should also put together a list of their debts – including mortgages, loans and credit card balances.

  • Valuing the estate

Once you know what the assets are, you’ll need to get them valued. This will then help you work out whether there will be anything left to pass on after the debts have been cleared.

  • Applying for probate

Estates valued at less than £5,000 in England and Wales or less than £10,000 in Northern Ireland usually won’t require probate. But if you need to arrange it, you can apply through the Probate Registry. It costs £215 to apply.

  • Dealing with the finances of the deceased

You’ll need to inform banks and building societies of the death, as well as any insurance companies, and close the accounts. You’ll have to cancel any direct debits – but ensure you inform the companies receiving these payments of the death. You’ll need to find out if anything is owed on these accounts or if there have been any overpayments.

  • Paying any debts

Once you know what debts the person had, you’ll have to pay them. This can be done by selling the assets that have been left, such as properties. This takes priority over distributing the estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will.

  • Distributing the estate according to Will instructions

If there is anything left over after clearing the deceased’s debts, you can then distribute it to their beneficiaries. You may need to identify trustees for beneficiaries under the age of 18. There are also rules around bankrupt beneficiaries, who may not be entitled to receive their inheritance, so make sure you look into this.

  • Paying any Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax will be owed on estates valued at more than £350,000. Anything above this threshold will incur a 40% tax. But certain exemptions apply, so make sure you look into the laws surrounding this.

Who can an executor be?

The executor of a Will should be over 18, and should be someone the maker of the Will trusts. They can be family members or friends. Many people choose their spouses, civil partners or children to act as executors to their Wills.

An executor can be named as a beneficiary in the Will, so it’s perfectly legal to distribute your inheritance to yourself.

Some people choose to appoint more than one executor. It’s possible to have up to four people acting as executor. You might want to ask when approached about being an executor if you’ll be working with others in the role.

It can be beneficial for people to choose solicitors to act as executors, so you may find yourself carrying out your duties alongside one. This can help to clarify the situation for you and make your job as executor simpler.

For help with the legalities around Wills, probate and estate administration, get in touch. First4Lawyers and our expert solicitors can help to simplify the process. Just give us a free call, request a call back or make an enquiry online.


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