Executor Of Will Checklist: 6 Steps Every Executor Should Take

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*UPDATED: First published November 2020*


At Bennett Griffin LLP, we have a team of specialists specifically to advise and assist Executors.

If you have been entrusted with the formal role of an Executor, this guide will brief you on your key duties, responsibilities and the risks involved with your appointment.

Responsibilities Of An Executor

In their desire to assist, we frequently find that our clients have been quick to agree that they will take on the role of Executor for friends, family, or colleagues, but they rarely ever receive advice at the time as to what this very important job entails.

Taking on the highly trusted role of an Executor means carrying out the instructions of the person who made the Will (the “Testator”/ “Testatrix”) in accordance with the law. But just suppose these duties are not carried out correctly. In that case, you may inadvertently become personally liable for any financial loss to the beneficiary(s) of the estate, the tax authorities or benefits agency.

To ensure that you have the peace of mind of knowing you are discharging your duties and responsibilities both legally and in the spirit of the wishes of the deceased – and to protect yourself from the risk of liability for any losses – it is recommended that you receive specialist advice at the earliest opportunity.

Executor Of Will Checklist

While there is no substitute for advice from an experienced expert, this guide will provide a starting point to help identify any gaps in your understanding, enabling you to make more informed choices when the time comes to discharge your duties as an Executor.

On the passing of the deceased, the immediate steps for an Executor are as follows:

1 – Immediately locate and secure the original (and last) Will

Do not presume that the Will you have is the latest.

Significant issues arise if a later Will is subsequently discovered after you have started to sell or distribute assets.

If a Will cannot be located, contact Bennett Griffin for specialist advice and details of how we can undertake searches and obtain insurance against this risk.

2 – Register the death and arrange the funeral

You will need to collect the medical certificate from the relevant medical practitioner and make an appointment at the local Registrars.

Make sure you purchase enough death certificates at this appointment, as there will be a time delay if you need to purchase additional certificates at a later date.

You will also need to:

  • Check if the Will contains any specific instructions before finalising the funeral arrangements. It is quite common for the person writing the Will to specify their final wishes.
  • Check to see if a pre-paid funeral plan has been purchased or if the funeral has already been pre-arranged.

3 – Immediately check who has keys to the property

It is crucial to find out who has keys to any property and retrieve them. If uncertain, change the locks.

Failure to secure the property could mean that any Executor(s) could be at risk of an allegation that valuable items (even the Will itself) have gone missing.

Here at Bennett Griffin, we have access to approved, expert locksmiths who can secure the property, providing both peace of mind and time to address any issues arising from the contents and insurance (see below).

4 – Immediately check the terms of insurance of any property and personal possessions and contents

Check the cover on the insurance and particularly whether any specific items are noted (and the maximum cover for any single item).

If the Executor(s) fails to insure the deceased’s property adequately, they may be personally liable for loss in the event of damage, fire, or theft.

We have access to specialist insurers who can fast track insurance quotes and cover for Executors for vacant possession of properties for peace of mind.

5 – Do you need a Grant of Representation?

A key legal step in the administration is establishing if a Grant of Representation (sometimes called a ‘Grant of Probate’) is required. This is critical to enable the legal transfer of assets from the deceased to the beneficiaries.

How do you do this? Firstly, you will need to ascertain the value of the assets in the deceased’s sole name. A Grant will be required to deal with all property/land and the other assets depending on their value. Each company/organisation has their own limits as to the amount they will release without sight of a Grant. If in doubt, we are pleased to provide specialist advice.

Find out more about Probate and Estate Administration.

6 – Obtaining a Grant

In most circumstances, the application for a Grant is made through an online application process.

Guidance can be found at www.gov.uk. In some circumstances, it will be necessary to prepare an application on paper in the traditional way.

Both options involve the completion of a lengthy form. It is vital that the information given to the Probate Registry is accurate as a formal Statement of Truth is required to be signed.

The Executor can submit the application in person, or we would be pleased to make the application for you. We would meet with you and obtain all the personal and financial information that we need to advise you and whether we can foresee any complications you had not considered (see below for examples).

In all cases, it is necessary to report the estate’s value to HMRC. Depending on the circumstances, this can be done either through the application for the Grant process or direct to HMRC.

We would complete the correct Inheritance Tax forms (if applicable) and calculate the correct amount of tax due (if appropriate), ensuring all available reliefs are claimed.

HM Revenue & Customs will not tell you if you have failed to claim a relief that is due. Beneficiaries can potentially lose out thousands of pounds if the Executor(s) do not claim all of the relief(s) that they are legally allowed to, and it could lead to a claim against you as the Executor.

Help’s At Hand

We hope this brief Executor Of Will Checklist gives you a flavour of the diverse and complex subject that is estate administration.

Here at Bennett Griffin, we specialise in this aspect of law (and many other areas, too) and will tailor our service to your particular needs.

If this guide has raised any queries or questions for you in your current or future role as Executor, then please contact a member of our Probate and Estate Administration team, who will be delighted to help you.

Alternatively, you can fill in the form below.