Checklist for Executors
This week we are focusing on Probate and the important role of Executors within the probate process.
So, let’s address a couple of questions first shall we…
What is probate?
Strictly speaking, Probate is proving the Will and showing that it is valid but many use the term to refer to the legal process following someone’s death. This is when someone with legal authority (the Executors, if there is a Will, or Administrators, if there is no Will) obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, and can then collect in and distribute the Estate of the deceased.
Probate is usually required where an Estate (all the property, cash, savings, ISAs, investments and any other valuables) of the deceased have a combined total of £5,000 or more.
What is an Executor?
An Executor is appointed in your Will and is responsible for collecting in and protecting your estate, including any property and assets that you own, and carry out the distribution of such items in accordance with your wishes.
Now for the tough part…an Executor is legally responsible for everything that they do, or fail to do, when administering the Estate and they are financially liable for any loss that results as a breach of their duty, even if the breach was a mistake
To make things a little easier (as we know that being an Executor, although a privilege to be asked, can be a massive burden!) we have set out a brief checklist of some of the things that an Executor should consider first when dealing with probate:
- Obtain the Death Certificate
As the Executor you will be responsible for notifying certain people, companies and authorities of the death and so the Death Certificate will be required.
- Find the original Will
As the Executor you will need the Will in order to apply for Probate.
- Applying for the Grant of Probate
This is the official document giving you authority to administer the Estate of the deceased, collect in and deal with their assets and then distribute them accordingly.
- Collect in assets of the Estate
The Will and any accompanying documents that the deceased may have left may well give specific instructions as to what the deceased has and, importantly, where it can be located, however such specifics may not be given.
As the Executor you will need to ensure that you collect in and account for all of the deceased’s assets including property, stocks, shares, bank accounts, ISAs, personal items etc.
This will also include searching for any missing assets.
- Put insurance in place
The Executor will be responsible for ensuring that relevant insurance is in place for the assets of the deceased until they can be distributed in accordance with the Will.
- Complete Inheritance Tax Forms
The Executor is responsible for completing and submitting the Inheritance Tax Forms.
The Estate is responsible for paying the Inheritance Tax due on the Estate and the Executor is responsible for ensuring this happens.
The Executor is responsible for completing and submitting the necessary Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax returns and paying, from the Estate, any tax that is due.
- Pay debts and liabilities
The Executor is not responsible for paying these personally however, the Executor is responsible for ensuring that any debts and liabilities, including funeral costs, are paid from the estate.
The Executor should also put a notice to debtors in the London Gazette.
- Preparing Estate Accounts
The Executor is responsible for the preparation of Estate Accounts and ensuring that the Accounts are distributed to the relevant parties.
- Distribution of the Estate to the Beneficiaries
The Executor will then be responsible for distributing the Estate assets, following the payment of all debts and taxes, in accordance with the deceased’s wishes as set out in their Will.
A detailed record of this, and all the steps taken by the Executor, should be kept throughout the process.
REMEMBER…You don’t have to do everything alone, ask for help as and when you need it!
You may need to ask for professional help from solicitors, probate specialists and/or tax advisers. If the estate is relatively small and doesn’t have any complexities, the Executor may well decide that they can carry out the process by themselves and this is also fine.
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