Executors: Role and responsibilities
28th March 2013

One of the most important decisions that anyone has to make once they decide to write a new Will is who they want to appoint as their Executor(s).

Many people who find they are appointed as an Executor under a Will do not know what the role entails and because of this leave themselves open to possible claims from beneficiaries or creditors for misadministration or negligence.

An Executor’s responsibilities are to:

  • Locate and identify the assets and any liabilities of the estate
  • Deal with the administration of the estate according to law by collecting in these assets
  • Determine the beneficiaries
  • Apply to the court for a grant of Probate of the Will. (Probate is a formal document that confirms the Executors and gives them formal permission to administer the estate)
  • Make sure all claims and debts are received, assessed and paid
  • Arrange for the distribution of the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will
  • Prepare accounts
  • Deal with any taxation returns
  • Defend the estate from any litigation

As Trustee of a Will an Executor in responsible for:

  • Managing any trust that might arise in the Will
  • Holding funds for children until the date specified in the Will

Trustees are bound to act carefully and properly and in accordance with the various Trustee Acts and will need various powers in relation to these trust funds, such as the power to pay monies for maintenance or education. These powers should be contained in the Will, either specifically or by incorporation (most commonly the STEP Standard Provisions http://www.step.org/publications/standard_provisions.aspx)

An Executor or Trustee is entitled to have proper expenses paid out of the estate, so the task of administration should not normally be a financial burden.

As you can see the duties of an Executor are varied and can be time consuming and must be carried out with care. For this reason Executors can, and in most cases would, appoint solicitors or professional Trustees, at the expense of the estate, to deal with its administration.



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