Choosing an executor
Making a Will is an important part of planning for the future. Writing a Will, will ensure your assets are passed to your choice of beneficiary, or beneficiaries.
One of the main decisions you will need to make when making a Will is who will act as your executor. This is the person who is responsible for dealing with the winding-up of your estate when the time comes. The task can be quite onerous and time-consuming, so it is important to ensure when selecting an executor for your estate that your chosen person is both capable and willing to take on the role.
The role of an executor
After a death, the executor will need to identify all of the assets in the estate and value them. The assets also need to be secured, for example, an empty property will need to be properly insured in light of its non-occupied state. Inheritance Tax is then calculated on the basis of the value of the estate assets and the appropriate payment made to HM Revenue & Customs.
Application must be made to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate. Once this has been received, the assets can be collected in and sold or transferred. This often includes the clearance and sale of a property.
Banks, share registrars and other financial institutions will usually ask to see a copy of the death certificate and/or a certified copy of the grant of probate before releasing funds or making transfers.
Liabilities need to be identified, to include calculating and paying any Income Tax or Capital Gains that may be owed, and all debts discharged.
A deceased estates notice should be placed in the paper known as the Gazette. This serves as a notice to any creditors that the executor may not have identified so that they may come forward and claim monies they are owed. If the estate includes a property, then an advert should be placed in a local paper as well. A notice will also serve to alert any potential beneficiaries of the death so that they can bring any claim on the estate that they may have.
The executor must then prepare estate accounts, detailing all estate income and expenditure, to include debts, administration expenses and the amount payable to beneficiaries.
Finally, once the accounts have been approved, the estate can be distributed to those named in the Will.
An executor will be personally liable for any loss arising because of a mistake they have made, for example if a debt is missed, even if the mistake was a genuine error. For this reason, it is important that an executor verifies that the figures they have are accurate and that they have identified all of the deceased’s assets and liabilities.
Help with the winding-up of an estate
Because of the onerous nature of the role, many executors appoint solicitors to act on their behalf. Using professionals who are familiar with the way the system works and who can devote the many hours needed to finalising matters means that the winding-up will usually be much quicker. A probate lawyer will also be able to ensure that all of the calculations are correct and that tax and other liabilities are discharged on time and without penalty.
How to choose an executor
Your executor needs to be someone you trust implicitly and whom you believe will be able to cope with the various tasks involved in winding-up your estate. They will need to have both the mental capacity to take on the role and a certain amount of free time, as an administration often requires a large amount of paperwork and correspondence between agencies and financial institutions.
You should bear in mind the age of your executor; if they are a similar age to you or older then they may be too old to easily take on the job when the time comes.
Appointing a professional executor
If you do not have anyone suitable to appoint as your executor, you can appoint a professional executor to deal with the administration of your estate. This can be useful if your relatives are elderly or if you believe that dealing with an estate administration would be too much of a burden on your family at a difficult time.
Using a professional executor can also minimise the risk of family disagreements that can sometimes arise when people are dealing with bereavement and also trying to manage a complex administrative matter.
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