What to do if you are an Executor or Administrator

What to do if you are an Executor or Administrator

What to do if you are an Executor or Administrator of an Estate for a person who has died

Have you recently been appointed as an Executor in a Will for a person who has died? Or has a relative died without making a Will and you wish to be the Administrator?

If that is the case, you may not be entirely sure of what an Executor or an Administrator is? Some online research is the next logical step, so you go about ascertaining what is or could be expected from you. 

Understandably, by this point, you may well be feeling overwhelmed by what lies ahead and what you need to do. Currently, everything is all jumbled up in your head and you do not have a clue where to start. Your research is proving fruitless too – all the articles you find give generic explanations along the lines of:

What is an Executor or Administrator of an Estate?

An Executor or Administrator is responsible for collecting in the assets of a person that has died, paying their debts and liabilities, to include tax, and distributing the estate in accordance with the Will or if there is no Will then the intestacy laws.

This explanation does not sort out that jumble in your head, does it? If anything, it raises more queries than it solves, ultimately just adding to that jumble. 

Take a step back and put the kettle on (everything is better after a cup of tea!). This article aims to help you clear that jumble in your head. The most important thing to remember is that you will cope with what you need to do.  

Please bear with me - and this may seem counter-productive - but I want you to forget about the person who has died for a few seconds. Instead, think about you.  

What things do you own?

Do you have a house, any bank accounts, an investment portfolio, etc.?  

What things do you pay for?

Do you have a mortgage, rent to pay, utility bills, insurance payments, a personal loan or a credit card, etc.?

I have no doubt that you have answered the above questions about yourself with ease. You know the addresses of any property that you own. You know where your bank accounts are held. You know the registrar of any investment portfolio.  You know how much your mortgage or rent is. You know your utility suppliers. You know the details of your insurers whether that be buildings and contents insurance or life insurance. You know how much you are paying off your personal loan and/or credit cards per month.   

It is easy when you know the answers to the questions.

All you now need to do is ask the same questions of the person who has died. Sadly, however, that person is no longer there to help with answering those questions. What are you expected to do?  
You will need to become an investigator, so I have set out a checklist below to help you with fulfilling your duties and responsibilities of being an Executor or Administrator.

Duties and responsibilities of an Executor or Administrator

  1. Have you registered the death and obtained the death certificate?

  2. The assets that you are aware of, are they protected?
    If there is a property, you should ensure that it is secure and adequately insured. If the person who died had arranged insurance, you should check with the insurance company if the cover is still on risk, especially if the property is now empty. You should notify the financial organisations that the person has died so that accounts can be frozen to stop any fraudulent activity.  

  3. Have you arranged the funeral?
    You should look out for, among the personal belongings of the person who has died, a funeral plan or wishes in the Will or a separate letter of wishes for details of how they would like their funeral.

  4. If you are the Executor, you should check that you have the most recent Will of the person who has died.

  5. If there is no Will, it will depend on the intestacy laws as to whether you can apply to be an Administrator.

  6. You should look through the personal belongings of the person who has died to identify the important paperwork that will indicate the assets owned and the liabilities held by the person who has died.
    For example, bank/credit card statements, rental agreements, contract notes, insurance documentation, utility bills, loan agreements, etc.

    Depending on what you find at point six will determine the complexity of the administration of the estate.  

  7. Once you have established the extent of the estate, you should write to the financial organisations to ascertain their requirements for collecting the asset(s) held with them. 
    Whether you need to apply for a Grant of Representation will depend on the requirements of the financial organisations and whether the person who has died held any property.  
    If the person who has died held any of the following it is likely that you will need to apply for a Grant of Representation:
    • A property held in their sole name;
    • If there are accounts with balances over a specified amount (the amount is dictated by the financial organisation); and 
    • Shares held in a public company. 
  8. If you do not need to apply for a Grant of Representation, then you can collect the assets by completing the necessary forms supplied to you by the financial organisations.

  9. If you do need to apply for a Grant of Representation, you will need to submit an application to the Probate Registry.
    The application will, amongst other things, involve you dealing with Inheritance Tax.

  10. Once you have the Grant of Representation, you will need to submit this together with any closure or transfer forms to the financial organisations in order to collect the assets.
    If there is a property, you will need to lodge the Grant of Representation with the Land Registry, together with a form of transfer to either change the name of the proprietor on the title deeds or to sell the property. 

  11. Once you have collected the assets, you should pay any debts and liabilities.
    As part of the liabilities of the estate, you will need to consider the tax matters, where appropriate.

  12. Once the liabilities and debts have been paid, if there is a balance left, you should distribute the balance in accordance with the wishes in the Will.
    If there is no Will, you will need to distribute the estate in accordance with the intestacy laws.

I hope that this article has played a small part in clearing that jumble in your head. You do not need a solicitor to deal with the administration of an estate, but if you would like one for any part or parts of the administration, please do get in touch, my direct dial is 0117 953 4791 or you can email me at trw@watkinssolicitors.co.uk