The burden of being an Executor

An Executor is the person you choose to carry out your wishes as stated in your Will. Executors can be beneficiaries under your Will and often people choose their spouse, partner and or children as Executors. Please check with your proposed Executors that they are willing to take on this role before naming them. as it can involve considerable responsibility.

  • Being an Executor is a difficult and time consuming job.
  • The role carries personal legal liability.
  • Relatives may be too distressed to perform the role.
  • Decisions could make them unpopular with beneficiaries.

Consider naming more than one Executor in case one dies before you. Also, it will be an easier task if there is more than one person so they may share the task and responsibility.

If the Estate is large or complicated there may be advantages in appointing a Professional Executor such as Solicitors, Accountants etc, but be warned they can charge between 3% and 5% of the value of the estate, and sometimes an hourly rate in addition to this.

For our clients when making a Will if they choose to appoint ourselves as Executors we only charge 1.5% of the estate and VAT, and disbursements.

You should take into account the following:

  • Availability & suitability
  • Willingness to act
  • Any possibility of conflict or dispute
  • The possibility of them predeceasing you
  • The size, nature and location of the estate, the assets and the beneficiaries
  • The costs involved

Where professionals are chosen as Executors they may be appointed as individually named persons or as a firm. Executors like Trustees, are in a fiduciary relationship so they cannot make a profit out of their office. They may only claim out of pocket expenses. Therefore, a charging clause must be included authorising them to charge for all work done by the Executors of their firm in administering the estate.

There is no legal objection to a beneficiary being appointed as an Executor where he or she is the sole beneficiary.

Understanding the role of an Executor:

An Executor has to carry out certain tasks and duties in order to legally fulfil the obligations of the task. As an Executor, you should therefore:

  • Obtain a copy of the medical certificate indicating cause of death.
  • Register the death at the Local Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. The death must be registered in order to obtain the Death Certificate. NB. it is advisable to get more than one copy as it will be needed when dealing with Insurance Companies, Pension Providers, Banks etc.
  • Ensure any last wishes such as organ donations are carried out. The job might also include planning for the Funeral or Cremation and arranging for payments for the services provided.
  • Make sure you have the last original will of the deceased, hopefully the Testator should have notified you as to the location of the Will.
  • Locate all the heirs, this might seem like an easy task and if there are just a couple of children and they are the only ones named in the Will, it maybe be easy. If there are numerous heirs and they are named in the Will either collectively or individually, the Executor must locate each everyone.
  • Make an exhaustive list of all the assets of the estate, from personal possessions, property, bank accounts, investments, Premium Bonds etc. all debts including credit cards, utility bills, loans etc, they must all be accounted for.
  • Open a separate estate bank account into which all money collected can be paid into. This will prevent estate monies being confused with personal finances.
  • Notify all businesses of the death e.g. Utility companies, Credit Card companies, Banks, Council Tax Offices, Social Security etc.
  • Make sure all the deceased’s debts are settled before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.
  • If there are minor or dependent children, the Executor could be responsible for arranging for their care and placement. The deceased might have their wishes stated in the Will. but if not, the Courts may need to be involved in the placement. If there are pets, the Executor will need to care for them and make arrangements for their continued care.
  • Pay any Inheritance Tax necessary.
  • Calculate and declare the value of the estate to HMRC on an Inheritance Tax return, within 12 months of the death.
  • Pay the deceased’s Tax. PLEASE NOTE, this is your personal responsibility. Failure to submit an accurate account to HMRC may leave you open to personal liability or penalties.
  • Complete the relevant forms and submit them to the Local Probate Registry to obtain the Grant of Probate.
  • Distribute the contents of the Will, making sure that if anything is to be left to minors a Trustee has been named.
  • After you have completed all of your tasks, you the administrator need to produce a full set of accounts for the beneficiaries showing the estate assets and liabilities, administration income and expenses and how the estate has been distributed.

A key consideration for you will be the extent to which you wish to involve professionals to help and support you in this role.

If you are considering asking someone to serve as the Executor of your estate, be sure you understand the duties and responsibilities of being an Executor.

Remember being an Executor of an estate is not really an honour, it’s difficult, and time consuming and carries personal legal liability.

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The Cost Of Dying Is Increasing

The Government is introducing a new fee structure that will affect the cost of accessing an estate when someone dies.

Fees for Applications for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration (for when someone dies intestate) will be changing and could eventually impact you and your family when you’re no longer around.

The new fees will take effect from May 2017. At the moment, the fees are set at either £155 if probate is applied for by a Solicitor or £215 if it is applied for by friends or family. There are no fees if the value of the estate is less than £5,000.

The first change is that estates below £50,000 will no longer have to pay any probate fee. This significantly increases the number of estates exempt from the fees. Unfortunately, everyone one else will see an increase, with those with the largest estates seeing fees of up to £20,000.

The fees are tiered depending on the value of the estate:

  • £50k – £300k = £300 fee
  • £300k – £500k = £1,000 fee
  • £500k – £1M = £4,000 fee
  • £1M – £1.6M = £8,000 fee
  • £1.6M – £2M = £12,000 fee
  • Above £2M = £20,000 fee

These fees are in addition to inheritance tax (IHT).

When somebody dies, the executors must apply for a Grant of Probate from the probate registry. This needs to be done to allow them to administer the estate according to the terms of the Will. These fees need to be paid up front. It may be difficult if the executor is not able to release cash from the deceased’s bank account and/or the executor is on a low wage or benefits.

Previously they may have been able to apply to get help with the fees. However, the Government is also removing probate applications from the general fees remissions scheme and financial help will no longer be available.

There are things to consider which may reduce the amount of probate needing to be paid. In particular, married couples or those in a civil partnership should consider the nature of any property ownership agreements they hold.

Another way to reduce the cost of probate is to consider setting up a Trust. This may lower the value of the estate (from a probate point of view) and drop it from a higher tier rate to a lower one.

Trust law is complex. You will need advice from a specialist to ensure you are setting one up in the most tax efficient way, so that it doesn’t end up costing you more than you hope to save.

For advice on this or any aspect of Estate Planning or Will Writing, please call Finance North Estate Planning Services on 0161 771 2056, or complete the enquiry form below for more information.