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Duties 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 reference.

We hope that it proves to be a useful guide through the complexities involved at this often stressful time. 


  1. 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 next-of-kin. 

  2. 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 contents). 

  3. 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). 

  4. 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 local/national press.

  5. 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.).

  6. Stop payment of any salary or pensions; advise issuers of passport, driving licence, TV licence, credit/charge cards, etc., and act on their directions. 

  7. Contact the deceased's tax office to settle tax affairs up to the date of death.

  8. 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. 

  9. 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 professional assistance. 

  10. 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 IHT purposes. 

  11. If necessary, arrange an Executors loan account with a bank, to pay any IHT which cannot be paid by instalments. 

  12. Submit completed probate application to Principal/District Probate Registry, with appropriate fee, requesting as many copy grants as you need. 

  13. When the grant of representation is obtained, send copy grants with appropriate instructions to asset-holders, and encash assets not specifically bequeathed. 

  14. 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. 

  15. 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. 

  16. Pay any administration expenses, and obtain clearance for any Inheritance Tax, administration income tax, or capital gains tax liability. 

  17. 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 entitled. 

  18. 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). 

  19. General Remarks

  20. 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 certificate. 

  21. A grant of probate is not normally required for jointly-owned assets, which pass by survivorship. 

  22. Keep beneficiaries regularly informed of progress, to maintain goodwill. 

  23. The Inheritance Tax threshold changes periodically - if in doubt, check with the Capital Taxes Office for current information.

  24. 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 will 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 assist.


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