Checklist for executors
There are specific tasks that the executors must carry out to legally fulfill the obligations of their role.
The checklist of responsibilities which starts from the date of death is as follows:
Following the death
1. Help the next of kin notify family and friends.
2. Locate the last original will. The original will is an important legal document. The executors should make a number of copies which can then be distributed to interested parties such as the beneficiaries and HM Revenue & Customs. They must ensure that the will is not tampered with in any regard (no staples, paper clips, pins should be used) and it should be stored safely and securely.
3. Help the next of kin appoint a funeral director. The executors are responsible for ensuring that the deceased’s wishes and instructions regarding the funeral are complied with as far as possible. These wishes may well be set out in the will.
4. The next of kin will usually register the death at the local Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The executors should ensure that the person who registers the death purchases at least six copies of the death certificate.
5. Notify the deceased’s bank, building society, credit card companies and other financial companies by sending them each a copy of the death certificate. Photocopies will not be acceptable. All the deceased’s accounts will be automatically frozen on receipt of the copy certificate.
6. Inform the building and contents insurance companies that the policy holder has died. The executors must ensure that ongoing insurance cover is in place as they will be personally liable. All property and other valuable items should be secured.
7. Make a public announcement of the death.
8. Inform all other organisations such as the Department for Works and Pensions, utility companies and the deceased’s ex employers etc. The executors should also put in place a change of address form with the Post Office so that post can be redirected to them.
Valuation of the estate
1. Before the executors can obtain the grant of probate (not required if the estate is small and contains only certain types of assets) that allows them to collect the deceased’s assets for distribution to the beneficiaries, they will need to prepare an inland revenue account.
2. To do this the executors must produce a valuation of all the deceased’s assets. This takes the form of an inventory (or list) of all the deceased’s assets including money, furniture, savings, property and anything else that belonged to the deceased as well as any loans, mortgages, credit card balances and other domestic or business debt.
3. Pay any Inheritance Tax liability due on the estate. Arrangements may need to be made to raise the money to pay the liability (e.g. by taking out a bank loan or selling some of the deceased’s personal property). The Probate Registry will not make a grant of probate until any liability has been settled.
Grant of probate
1. Apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate (several official copies of the grant should be requested when you make the application). The grant of probate is simply the process of proving the validity of the will and obtaining the grant (official confirmation) showing the authority of the executors to carry out the will. The executors can apply or instruct a solicitor to apply on their behalf.
2. Swear an oath at the Probate Registry or in front of a commissioner for oaths (usually a solicitor) confirming that you are appointed by the will and that you will ensure that the estate will be distributed in accordance to the law and the terms of the will.
3. Receive the grant of probate which entitles you to administer the deceased’s estate.
Administration of the estate
1. Notify all businesses by sending official copies of the grant. The executors must gather all documents relating to the estate and complete the list of assets, debts and liabilities.
2. Open an executors’ bank account for the administration of the estate. This avoids all confusion with the executors’ personal finances. All the money (including the sale proceeds of any asset) can be collected into this one account.
3. Pay off all the claims on the estate, liabilities and debts and also the funeral expenses.
4. Obtain final agreement from HM Revenue & Customs that all tax liabilities have been settled. These liabilities may include income tax from before the person died and from the administration period. Also, there may be additional Capital Gains Tax to be paid, if for example a property has been sold in the administration period which has gone up in value since the date of death.
5. Apply to HMRC Capital Taxes Office which is in charge of the collection of Inheritance Tax for formal confirmation that all Inheritance Tax has been paid.
6. Draw up Estate Accounts. It is essential that accurate records of all financial transactions are kept during the administration stage as a beneficiary or the court can ask for Estate Accounts which the executors must be able to provide. A Statement of Administration should be sent to the beneficiaries who should give approval before the estate is distributed.
Distribution of the estate
Distribute the estate to those entitled under the terms of the will. Receipts should be obtained from the beneficiaries. The executors will need to ensure that any distributions to persons under 18 are held for them in trust. When all cheques have cleared, close the executors’ bank account.
Please note that information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.