What are my duties as an executor?

Daniela Koceva

Article written by Daniela Koceva, Solicitor, Private Client department

Losing a loved one is never easy. However, it is inevitable that we will all, at some stage, experience the death of a family member or friend. If you are appointed as the executor of a loved one’s estate in their Will, there are a number of things that must be dealt with immediately following their death such as registering the death, arranging the funeral and locating the Will. In time, it will be necessary to start dealing with the legal aspects of administering their estate.

Registering the death

The death must be registered within five days of the date of death. You will need to provide the medical certificate supplied by the doctor certifying the death to the Registrar, a certificate for the burial or cremation of the body and a certificate for social security benefits. The Registrar will advise you on the Tell Us Once service which allows you to report the death to most Government organisations in one go.

Funeral arrangements

The funeral arrangements are then usually undertaken by a member of the deceased’s immediate family. The Will of the deceased should be checked to ascertain whether the deceased expressed any wishes as to the funeral arrangements or use of their body parts for transplant or donation of their body for anatomical examination and research.

Identify assets and liabilities

In time, all the assets and any liabilities in the estate must be identified. A thorough search will need to be made through all of the deceased’s papers and property to establish everything the deceased person owned or owed and the approximate value of each asset or debt (and sometimes the whereabouts of tangible assets like cars, jewellery, furniture, artwork and other chattels).

We can assist with this by contacting all those holding assets and claiming debts notifying them of the death with a copy of the death certificate and a request for any further information.

Locate and obtain the Will

Depending on what is in the estate and its values, you may need a Grant of Probate. This is the legal document which confirms that the executor of a Will has the authority to deal with the deceased’s assets.  If the Will cannot be found among the deceased’s belongings and paperwork but is believed to exist, we would suggest:

  • Asking the deceased’s family and friends;
  • Making enquiries with the deceased’s solicitors or financial advisors or bankers; and
  • Checking with Certainty (The National Will Register) to see if a Will was registered with them.

If a Will cannot be found, the intestacy rules will apply and we can advise you on this accordingly.

Contact a specialist

If there are assets in the estate that require a Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration when there is an intestacy), we would strongly recommend that you contact a specialist probate lawyer who can assist.

We can deal with:

  • Ensuring that any inheritance tax allowances are claimed against an estate;
  • Sale or transfer of any property in an estate;
  • Completing the inheritance tax returns;
  • Making the application for probate;
  • Settling taxes and liabilities; and
  • Distributing the estate.

For further information on the probate and administration of estates services we offer, please feel free to email me or contact me directly on 020 8305 4239.