What is an Executor? - Wills & Probate Solicitors UKSOLICITORS HELPLINE: ☎ 0330 660 7004
An executor is the person name in a will who the deceased authorises to deal with their assets in accordance with the provisions of the will after the testator has died. The testator can appoint up to four executors in the will who can make application for probate. Just one person may apply for the Grant of Probate or two or three or all four. The executor derives power from the will itself and is effectively entitled to inter-meddle in the assets of the deceased immediately after death without waiting for a Grant of Probate to be issued which merely confirms the authority granted in the will. An executor should take possession of assets as soon as possible and should insure where necessary without waiting for the Grant of Representation as they are personally responsible to the beneficiaries for any losses. Dependent on the estate it may be that the duties of the executor under the terms of the will are onerous in which case some executors may decline the appointment unless they have a substantial financial interest in the will although many executors appoint a probate solicitor to deal with outstanding matters on their behalf, the costs of which are usually born by the estate of the deceased. Whilst most wills do appoint at least one executor, some wills are silent on appointment in which case the proposed representative must obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration in order to be appointed administrator of the deceased estate which is only slightly different from being appointed executor. The Grant of Probate is obtained from the Probate Registry of the High Court of Justice after valuation of the estate, followed by submission of the will and completion of standard forms. Upon the tax issues being determined by the Capital Taxes Office and paid where relevant, the Grant of Probate will be issued to the executor.
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The executor's role is one of great responsibility to the beneficiaries and bearing in mind that some estates are of high value may require professional advice and assistance usually from a specialist solicitor or accountant. The executor should bear in mind that they are personally liable for financial losses and in the main are not entitled to be paid for their time and effort unless the appointment is of a professional nature. The main duties of an executor are as follows :-
The executor should urgently ensure that the assets of the estate are secure and where possible should take possession.
Where appropriate the executor should take out insurance to protect the value of any relevant assets.
The executor should collect and safeguard all assets wherever they may be located.
The executor should pay all of the estates liabilities including funeral expenses bearing in mind that some debts take priority including taxes.
The executor should thereafter distribute the estate in accordance with the deceased wishes as set out in the will which may involve liquidation of some assets by way of sale.
The executor should deal with matters expeditiously and failure to do so may result in legal action by the beneficiaries.