The main obligations of an Executor are to ensure :
- Funeral arrangements are properly carried out
- All of the deceased’s assets are identified and brought into the Executor’s control and, where necessary, converted into cash
- The deceased’s liabilities are settled in full (including any Inheritance Tax liabilities)
- Any legacies contained or referred to in the Will are settled
- The residue of the estate is passed to the “Residuary Beneficiaries” named in the Will
- To prepare a full account of how that residue is derived
HOW CAN THIS BE ACHIEVED?
In order to administer most estates an Executor will need, at least, to take the following steps:
- The death must be registered according to the time limits laid down in law i.e. within 5 days of death
- The funeral must be arranged, where possible in accordance with the deceased’s wishes and those of the family
- The deceased’s assets must be secured and protected including, if necessary, arranging insurance
- A valuation of the estate assets will be required in accordance with the requirements both of HM Revenue and Customs and the Probate Registry for Probate purposes
- Prepare an Inland Revenue account for Inheritance Tax and Probate purposes
- An oath must be prepared, sworn and submitted to the Probate Registry to obtain a Grant of Probate
- The Grant of Probate must be registered with all interested parties
- If there are specific legacies, those assets must be transferred to the beneficiaries
- The deceased’s Income and Capital Gains Tax affairs must be agreed with HM Revenue and Customs to the date of death; tax must also be paid on any income during the administration period (i.e. before the assets are distributed)
- All liabilities must be ascertained and settled (including the funeral account)
- Any legacies contained in the Will must be paid
- An account must be prepared for the Residuary Beneficiaries
- The Residuary Beneficiaries must be supplied with certificates of deduction of tax for income tax purposes
- Finally, throughout the administration period, the Executor is under a duty to keep his co-executors and the Residuary Beneficiaries advised of developments
WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS?
There are potentially many pitfalls which may arise during the administration of an estate. Some of which are obvious and some are not. It is always a good idea for Executors to seek professional help and guidance from an experienced solicitor.
(a)The Interpretation of the Will. It is important to ensure that the Will has the effect which the Executor attributes to it. Many words in everyday use carry a precise and sometimes different meaning when used within the terms of a Will. If there is any doubt, advice as to the interpretation of the Will should be sought.
(b) The possibility of claims from unknown creditors – the law does provide protection if the correct procedures are followed.
(c) Claims from people omitted from the Will. Certain classes of potential beneficiaries have a right to bring a claim within certain time limits – should the estate be distributed before those limits expire?
(d) The preparation of the Inheritance Tax return – what should be included?
(e) The preparation of accounts and tax certificates.
(f) The setting up of Trusts arising under the Will.
DEATH – Some questions you may wish to ask.
How soon should you register a death?
Deaths in England and Wales should be registered within 5 days of the death.
Which documents should I take to the Register Office when I register the death?
The medical certificate giving the cause of death is issued by the doctor treating the person who has died.It must be taken to the Register Office. If possible, you should also take the Deceased’s NHS medical card.If the death has been reported to the coroner, the registrar will need additional documentation from the coroner before the death can be registered.
Where can I get a copy of the Death Certificate?
Copies can be bought online, by post or telephone, or through the register office where the death was registered.
Who should register?
If the person died in a house or hospital, the death can be registered by:
- A relative
- Someone present at his death
- An occupant of the house/official from the hospital, if that is where the death occurred
- The person making the arrangements with the funeral directors.
Deaths taking place anywhere else can be registered by:
- A relative
- Someone present at his death
- The person who found the body
- The person in charge of the body
- The person making the arrangements with the funeral directors
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The majority of deaths are registered by a relative of the Deceased. The Registrar would normally allow one of the other people listed above to register the death only if there are no relatives available to do it.