The Role of Executors also known as a ‘personal representative’
No professional qualification is required to be an executor, and executors can apply to pay inheritance tax over an extended period.
Grant of probate
When your executors have valued your estate, they may need to apply for a Grant of Probate, giving a net value of the estate. The Grant is an official court document from the Probate Registry, required to call in your assets and administer the estate. A Grant of Probate may not be needed if you leave less than £5,000 or owned everything jointly with someone else, such as a spouse. In this case, production of the original, or a certified copy, death certificate should be sufficient to administer the estate.
A Grant of Probate will enable your executors to do whatever is necessary to administer the estate. This could include accessing your bank accounts, selling any property that you owned, transferring any shares, and so on.
If your executors need to receive money from bank accounts or other investments, sell property, and so on, they must apply for a designated bank or building society account, in which to deposit the money. When all assets have been realised and all debts paid, the net balance will then be distributed according to your Will.
Finally, the executors must draw up accounts showing the income and outgoings of your estate, as well as all legacies and payments made to the beneficiaries named in your Will. All executors must approve and sign these accounts, which serve not only as a formal record, but as a means of protecting the executors and beneficiaries.
It is advisable to have more than one executor (save for the simplest of estates) and to consult with your choice of executors, to determine if they are willing to take on the responsibility after your death.
When considering your choice of executors, also known as a ‘personal representative’, it is useful to know the basics of what an executor’s duties are. It is not advisable, for instance, to appoint an older relative to be an executor, as they are more likely to die before you, and he or she may not have the ability to deal with your affairs in the event of your death.
Valuing the estate
Your executors will be required to value the whole of your estate and pay any debts, taxes and funeral expenses.
If your estate exceeds the current inheritance tax (IHT) threshold (£325,000), your executors must pay some or all of any IHT due, before the Grant of Probate is given. IHT must usually be paid within six months of your death.