Being asked to be the Executor of someone’s Will can be a bit scary, especially if you’ve never done it before.
It’s important that you fully understand your responsibilities before you accept this important role.
The executor is someone named in a Will as taking legal responsibility for carrying out the instructions left in the Will by the deceased regarding their estate.
It’s very likely that it will be many years before you have to fulfill your role but even so, you should make yourself aware of what is involved.
Being the Executor of a Will can take up a lot of time, you will also have to make some important decisions.
There is also a chance that you could be held responsible for any mistake, even if they were unintentional.
You have to be comfortable with this level of responsibility before you agree to act as someone’s Executor.
It can take up a lot of your time, and you can be responsible for making important decisions – something many will find stressful. You may also be held personally liable for any mistakes, even if they are perfectly innocent, so the cost of getting it wrong can be high.
Here are a few top tips from our expert advisor, Michael Graham, Head of Client Services at Cleaver Fulton Rankin Solicitors, Belfast.
1. Be prepared
It’s always a difficult conversation to have but being an Executor is much easier if you have these important conversations before you have to undertake your role.
This can include where the Will will be stored, contact details of Solicitors and other Executors.
If you have been asked to be an Executor, it is likely that you know the person fairly well but it might be useful to talk about funeral arrangements and their general wishes after death.
This information might be helpful to the family in a time of grief.
2. Check if probate is needed
The assets owned by the deceased are known collectively as their estate.
This can include property, money and personal possessions.
As an Executor, you will need to calculate the total value of the Estate. There are no hard and fast rules, but, if the value of the Estate exceeds £5,000, it is likely that probate will be required. If so, you will need to apply to the Probate Office of the High Court in Belfast for a Grant of Probate.
Once this has been issued, your legal authority to administer the Estate will be confirmed.
3. Make a list
If you aren’t the only Executor of the Will get in touch with the other Executors and discuss what needs to be done.
It is essential to consider what your duties are, and the timescales involved. Your first job will be to locate the most up to date Will which of course should be straightforward if you follow Tip #1!
3. Get a folder or file
There will be a lot of paperwork and you need to be organised to keep on top of it all. It will make it much easier in the long run.
You will need to notify organisations about the death, deal with taxes, transfer or sell property, and distribute the Estate to the beneficiaries of the Will.
There are also fewer chances of mistakes being made.
You might find that people who have an interest in the deceased person’s estate may have queries or concerns.
To avoid any unnecessary upset you should speak to the beneficiaries of the Will, be open and honest in conversations, keep them updated especially with regards to any delays that might occur.
5. Get the experts in
Don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed.
Administering a Will is not an easy task but there is expert help available. For complex estates, it might necessary to ask for legal advice from a Solicitor.
Many solicitors specialise in this area and a useful starting point is the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners.
Being an Executor of someone’s Will can be a hugely rewarding experience.
It can help with your own grieving process as well as being a very practical way to support the deceased’s family at a time of distress.