The executors are the people named in a will who are legally responsible for carrying out the will-maker’s wishes — collecting in the property they leave behind (their ‘estate’), paying off the deceased’s debts and liabilities and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries under the will.
Your executors will be responsible for:
- Identifying everything in the estate — for example, cash from bank accounts, investments and so on.
- Valuing assets such as your home and any shares.
- Calculating any debts and liabilities — for example, mortgages, other borrowings and any tax liabilities due up to the date of death.
- Completing inheritance tax forms, dealing with any inheritance tax due and applying for a grant of probate (which allows them to deal with the estate).
- Paying funeral costs (or reimbursing whoever has already paid them).
- Collecting in the assets and paying the debts and liabilities.
- Making distributions to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will. This may mean tracing beneficiaries whose addresses have changed.
- Drawing up estate accounts for the beneficiaries so they can see that everything has been accounted for.
Executors often also act as trustees if the will sets up a trust — for children under 18, for example.
Being an executor can involve a lot of work. It can take six months or more to wind up even a simple estate and over a year for more complex estates. Your executors should not only be people you trust absolutely to carry out your wishes, but they must also be willing and able.
You may want to consider appointing a solicitor as one of your executors. Alternatively, your executors can themselves decide to get help from a solicitor when the time comes.