of an Executor
We are often asked the following question:
If I am appointed executor or administrator of a
relative or friend's estate, what will I have to do?
The following points cover most aspects of estate
administration, and is in checklist form for ease of
We hope that it proves to be a useful guide through the
complexities involved at this often stressful time.
- Establish the
whereabouts of any current Will appointing you
executor. If there is no Will, or no executor
appointed, you may administer the estate if you are
- If there is unoccupied
property, secure it and ensure that mains services
(gas, electricity, water) are safe, deliveries
stopped, and mail redirected if necessary. Check
insurance of important assets (e.g. house/flat and
- Register the death
(within five days, unless an inquest and/or post
mortem is necessary) with the Registrar for the area
where it occurred and obtain the required number of
death certificates (estimate this).
- Advise family/friends
of the death, arrange the funeral in accordance with
any known wishes (unless there is a pre-paid funeral
plan), and (optionally) arrange obituary notices in
- Ascertain assets and
liabilities and their date-of-death values by sending
a certified copy death certificate to any assumed
asset-holder (bank, insurance company, etc.), and any
creditor (gas/electricity companies, etc.), and, if
there might be tax to pay, obtain professional
valuations of any significant property (stock market
investments, stamp collections etc.).
- Stop payment of any
salary or pensions; advise issuers of passport,
driving licence, TV licence, credit/charge cards,
etc., and act on their directions.
- Contact the deceased's
tax office to settle tax affairs up to the date of
- Inform beneficiaries of
their entitlement, giving those entitled to the
residue of the estate information regarding the assets
and liabilities and, if there is a Will, providing
them with a copy of it.
- Ascertain the
Inheritance Tax (IHT) position. IHT is not payable on
smaller estates (currently, at the date of printing,
those under £275,000, a figure which may be enhanced
by gifts to charity, spouse, etc.). If in doubt, seek
- Unless the estate can
be dealt with informally under the Small Estates Act
(if no assets are worth more than £5,000 each),
prepare probate forms (obtainable from a Probate
Registry), including, if applicable, an Inland Revenue
Account (obtainable from the Capital Taxes Office) for
- If necessary, arrange
an Executors loan account with a bank, to pay any IHT
which cannot be paid by instalments.
- Submit completed
probate application to Principal/District Probate
Registry, with appropriate fee, requesting as many
copy grants as you need.
- When the grant of
representation is obtained, send copy grants with
appropriate instructions to asset-holders, and encash
assets not specifically bequeathed.
- Pay the funeral account
(unless already paid, e.g. by arrangement with the
bank) and any other outstanding bills, including tax.
If in doubt, insert statutory notices for creditors in
the press, allowing two months for claims to be made.
- Pay any legacies and
transfer any items bequeathed by the Will. You do not
have to wait for probate before transferring bequests,
if you are sure that the Will is valid and that no-one
else will claim them.
- Pay any administration
expenses, and obtain clearance for any Inheritance
Tax, administration income tax, or capital gains tax
- Having settled any
valid claims on the estate, prepare estate accounts
and submit them to the residuary beneficiaries. Once
approval is obtained, distribute the residue to those
- Provide each residuary
beneficiary with a tax form R185 (Estate income) for
each year of administration income (important for
charities, which can reclaim any income tax paid).
- Photocopies of death
certificates / grants of probate etc. may be
acceptable, if certified by a solicitor, but it may be
preferable to buy several copies of the death
- A grant of probate is
not normally required for jointly-owned assets, which
pass by survivorship.
- Keep beneficiaries
regularly informed of progress, to maintain goodwill.
- The Inheritance Tax
threshold changes periodically - if in doubt, check
with the Capital Taxes Office for current information.
- In case of difficulty,
obtain professional help from Kings Court Trust
Corporation Plc on 0845 126 0891 (quoting reference
WW289). They are specialists in this area of work and
give a fixed price quotation - and their fees will be an
estate expense. The Inland Revenue will often offer
guidance, and charity beneficiaries may be able to
Frequently Asked Questions