Being asked to act as someone’s Executor may seem a simple request, and many people give it little thought before accepting. However, the role of Executor carries strict legal duties and can result in personal liability if the estate is not administered correctly.
Individuals rather than trust companies are often appointed as Executors in the deceased’s Will. Individuals can also be appointed to the role of Administrator in cases where no Will has been made by the deceased. It is essential that people understand the duties of being an executor before accepting the role so that they understand the potential pitfalls. The duty of an Executor/Administrator is to hold the estate of the deceased on trust for the beneficiaries. They have a responsibility to collect in the assets of the estate, pay any liabilities and then make distributions to the beneficiaries in accordance with the deceased’s Will or the Intestacy Rules.
Often lay Executors underestimate the amount of work that is required and the timescales involved in dealing with their responsibilities for administering the estate, which can be particularly onerous when they are also coping with the grief of losing a loved one.
Lay Executors need not employ the help of a professional, particularly for routine non-taxable estates, and they can do a lot of the initial information gathering themselves, which can help them minimise costs. They may then seek professional assistance in obtaining the Grant of Probate so that the professional can deal with the more technical aspects, including dealing with the Probate Registry and the necessary inheritance tax return for HM Revenue & Customs, leaving the lay Executors to deal with rest of the routine estate administration themselves, such as closing bank accounts; selling shares; paying liabilities, expenses and legacies; and distributing the rest of the estate.
Many Solicitors offer fixed fees for a “Grant only” service as well as fixed fees for a “full estate administration” service, and so those firms that look to charge on an hourly rate basis or unregulated firms that operate in this sector should be avoided. Oratto has teamed up with a number of firms that offer a low-cost fixed-fee probate service. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and are mandatorily required to have professional indemnity insurance in place so that if anything does go wrong, the Executors do have redress to ensure it is put right.
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.