Being asked to be the executor of a friend or family member’s estate is an honour but also a major responsibility, as you could face a charge for hundreds of thousands of pounds if you make a mistake.
By Harvey Jones
The danger has come into focus after executor Glyne Harris was ordered to pay £340,000 to HM Revenue & Customs from his own
Mr Harris passed on proceeds from the £1.2million estate assuming the beneficiary would pay any IHT due, but instead they disappeared to Barbados with the money.
Once you have agreed to be an executor you cannot back out, so make sure you understand your responsibilities in full.
More than £5.2 billion in inheritance tax (IHT) was paid in the last tax year – the highest figures ever recorded.
Official statistics from HMRC's latest monthly estimate have revealed the unprecedented amount is an increase of £400 million on the previous tax year.
But it appears that not all those entitled to claim the new IHT allowances have been taking advantage of these, leaving them with a higher than necessary IHT bill – in some instances, families could be paying as much as £40,00 extra.
Losing someone over Christmas or coping with grief following the recent death of a loved one is always going to present challenges. Christmas is typically a very emotional time, and one that is laden with logistical questions: where will you and visiting family members sleep, who will buy the presents, who will cook the meals? Add to this the need for liaising with funeral directors and probate solicitors and it is easy to see how a bereavement over Christmas can quickly become overwhelming.
And the truth is that grief can make the usual challenges of Christmas both more difficult to get through and more heart-rending; it's not as if the magic of Christmas can just anaesthetise or dissipate your hurt. In fact, for many the happy associations and familial intersections of Christmas can actually compound emotional turmoil and vulnerability, particularly for those who feel the pressure to "perform" happily during the Christmas season through fear of upsetting others.
One of the most significant and traumatic awakenings we all experience is the childhood realisation that we have no choice about the inevitable: all that lives must die. However, while death is unavoidable this shouldn't mean that we have no choice about how we die and how our passing is handled.
The experience of many bereaved people can be disappointing at many levels: from concern over financial issues, such as fees and costs for probate and funerals, to more intangible aspects such as the level of service received from agencies handling the death and feelings of disempowerment.
But the aftermath does not have to be impersonal or out of our hands.
Probate is one of those legal processes that almost everyone will need to negotiate at some time in their lives. Unfortunately, the complexity juxtaposed with necessity can leave the legal services consumer feeling trapped – in desperate need of assistance at a difficult time but dissatisfied and disempowered by the options presented before them.
Above all, at a time of grief and uncertainty, with all the emotional and familial difficulties that may emerge, the client is likely to want and need clarity regarding who is providing them with a probate service, how much it will cost, and just what it will entail. But this is not always as simple as it sounds. And in the case of those faced by the prospect of handing over the probate reins to a professional executor named in the Will, any notion of choice appears to be completely snatched from their hands.