“If I am the executor of someone’s estate, what will I have to do?”
This checklist is designed to be a short but useful useful guide through the complexities arising at a difficult time. The legal procedures are a framework that can support your efforts to deal with many of the questions that remain unanswered once a living soul has departed.
The Administration of an estate affects people in different ways depending upon the circumstances of the death and the nature of the web of relationships that survive.
What needs to be done?
Locate the current Will – if the Will does not appoint an executor, or there is no Will, then you may apply for Letters of Administration if you are the next of kin. You need to be sure that you have the most recent Will and that it is valid.
If there is an unoccupied property, secure it, and ensure that all the utilities (gas, electricity and water) are safe; deliveries stopped and if necessary, redirect mail. Check the safety and insurance of important assets e.g. House/flat and contents.
Unless an inquest or post mortem is necessary, register the death within 5 days with the Registrar for the area where the death occurred. The hospital or doctor will be able to provide the address of the Registrar.
Tell family/friends about the death, arrange the funeral in accordance with any known wishes and place obituary notices in local/national press if required.
Find out about the deceased’s assets and liabilities and the date of death value by informing any asset holder (Bank, Insurance Company etc.) and any creditor (Utility companies etc.) and sending a certified copy of the death certificate to them. Obtain professional valuations of any significant property (house/flat, jewellery, stocks and shares, collections etc.)
Stop payment of any salary or pensions; advise the appropriate Passport office, DVLC, TV Licensing, credit and charge cards and act on their directions.
Contact the deceased’s tax office to settle tax affairs up to the date of death. Prepare self-assessment tax returns from the date of death until the end of the administration period.
Inform beneficiaries of their entitlement, giving those entitled to the residue of the estate information regarding the assets and liabilities, and providing a copy of the Will where appropriate.
Check the Inheritance Tax (IHT) position by seeking professional help. This tax is not payable on smaller estates – under £325,000 net, a figure which may be enhanced by gifts to charity, spouse etc and a transferable nil rate band from a deceased spouse. Executors have personal liability for underpayment and proper enquiries must be undertaken to establish the position concerning dispositions prior to death.
Other than estates where no single asset exceeds £5000, which can be dealt with under the Small Estates Act, probate forms must be prepared. It may also be necessary to prepare an Inland Revenue Account.
If necessary, arrange an executor’s loan account with a Bank to pay any IHT that cannot be funded, or paid by instalments.
Submit probate forms to the Probate Registry with appropriate fee for grant and copies.
When the grant is received, send office copy grants to asset holders with withdrawal or encashment forms and instructions, except where an asset is specifically left to a named person/organisation.
Pay the funeral account, unless already paid and any other outstanding bills, including tax. Where considered necessary, insert statutory notices advertising for creditors, allowing 2 months for claims to be notified.
Pay any legacies and transfer any assets left by the Will – whilst you do not have to wait for probate before transferring bequests, you must be sure that the Will is valid and that no one else will claim them. Many assets cannot be collected until a grant is obtained.
Pay any administration expenses and obtain clearance for any IHT, administration income tax or capital gains tax liability.
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.
Provide each residuary beneficiary with a tax deduction certificate ( Form R185) for each year of administration income – this is especially important for charities that can reclaim the tax paid.
General Comments and handy tips
Photocopies of death certificates and grant of probates should be certified by a solicitor.
A grant may not be required for jointly owned assets, which pass to the survivor.
Keep beneficiaries regularly informed to maintain goodwill.
The IHT threshold can change in the Budget –see the HMRC website or the Capital Taxes Office have current information.
This guidance note is produced by Kagan Moss and is intended as a general guide only. It should not be relied upon for advice in relation to the specific circumstances of an individual case.In case of difficulty, obtain professional help – professional fees are usually expenses of the estate.
The legal position is recorded as at the date of publication in January 2019 and is liable to change.