An executor is someone who is responsible for undertaking the wishes of a deceased person. Often, when an executor has been chosen in a will, they will be aware that they have been named.
An executor is responsible for applying for probate, which is needed after more than half of deaths in the UK. Probate is the process that occurs after someone has passed away. Once you have applied for probate you will receive a grant of probate document that will enable you to deal with the accounts and paperwork of the person who has died.
As well as applying for probate, the executor is responsible for splitting the inheritance or estate between beneficiaries of the will. In order to complete this process, the executor may be responsible for sourcing the deceased’s financial documents and freezing any bank accounts to prevent any unauthorised movement of money.The executor will also need to be responsible for all paperwork, including sending a copy of the death certificate to relevant organisations, organising tax, and recording everything of monetary value belonging to the deceased. The complicated process also requires an awareness of any money either owed to or owed by the deceased.
Once the grant of probate has been received, the executor will need to collect the deceased’s money, sell property, pay any debts or fees, and distribute the final estate.
There may be occasions when executors named in a will are no longer able to carry out their duties. For example, if all executors named in a will have died, an administrator will be named by the court to take the place of an executor. Usually, this will be the person who will benefit the most from the will itself.
If executors named in a will are alive but no longer have the mental capacity to carry out probate, the court may name the administrator as someone who has power of attorney for the executor who is no longer capable, or someone suitable as decided by the Court of Protection.
When executors named in a will will not apply for probate, it is possible to apply for those executors to be replaced. Generally, applications for removal of executors are dealt with by the partner, child or close relative of the deceased, who would benefit the most from the will. In this instance, a new executor can be appointed.
If an executor is not named because there is no will, then generally, probate will be the responsibility of the person who would benefit from the will the most (the person who has the most to inherit). In these instances, that person would need to apply for a grant of letters of administration.
If the deceased has a spouse or partner who is alive, the responsibility will fall to them. If not, deciding who will inherit the most is based on a set of traditional laws called the rules of intestacy.
When no partner is able to assume responsibility, the rules of intestacy dictate a clear hierarchy listing the next suitable person based on their relationship with the deceased. After partners, the responsibility would fall to:
When no suitable relative is found, or the relatives found are under the age of 18, we can help discuss your options with you. If you have recently become an executor and you would like help understanding what you need to do, please get in touch for professional advice.