What are the duties of a will executor?

The duties of an executor of a will range from arranging the funeral to dealing with assets and applying for probate. 

Anyone who makes a will must name an executor. This individual is legally responsible for carrying out the person’s will and handling their estate.

It’s a tough duty, with a lot to do and a lot of responsibility. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide of what you need to do as the executor of a will. 


Register the death (if necessary)

The first duty, if necessary, is to register the death and notify the deceased person’s GP. As an executor, you may only have to do this challenging task if there’s no one else who can.

If you do have to register a death, to make things easier, it’s a good idea to pay for several certified copies of the death certificate in case you need additional copies. You may need the for each asset holder than holds money or other items of value that belonged to the deceased. 

This is important to sort out the deceased finances, cancel direct debits, and request information for the estate valuation phase.

These asset holders often include the person’s bank, insurance providers, landlord and TV licensing. 


Get copies of the will 

One of the most important things to handle after a person’s death is their will, which outlines how someone wants their estate to be distributed. 

As the executor of the will, it’s first necessary to find the most up-to-date version of the will and get the original (or a copy, if that isn’t possible). To access the will, you need to provide a death certificate and proof of your identity. 

Make copies of the will for yourself, co-executors and beneficiaries. Then, put the original away in a safe place. 

It’s important not to tamper with the original or copies in any way, including adding staples or paper clips.


Take responsibility for property and post

This is another difficult duty of the executor of a will, as handling property and post of the deceased can trigger memories and bring up a lot of emotions.

First, if the deceased’s property is unoccupied, it’s best to secure it and inform the insurers as soon as possible. 

The estate itself may have to replace the person who has died as the policy holder, and the insurer may ask you to make regular checks on the condition of the property while it’s unoccupied. If the current home insurance policy doesn’t cover an empty property, you may have to get a new one.

To stop postal deliveries, contact the Bereavement Register.


Value the estate

Valuing the estate is important for inheritance tax purposes, as some of its value may be taxed if it goes over a certain threshold. 

To value an estate, start with everyone the deceased owned at the time of their death, including property, possessions and money (minus any debts, such as mortgage, loans and bills).

It’s important to check how these assets were held to see if they form part of the estate. For assets such as property or land, you should get a professional valuation; HMRC recommends having items worth more than £500 valued professionally.


Pay inheritance tax

Inheritance tax may have to be paid on the estate if it’s worth more than the £325,000 threshold. The tax itself is applied at 40%, which is why valuing the estate correctly is so important.

However, there’s no inheritance tax to pay on estates left to a spouse, civil partner or charity, and there are a range of other allowances that can reduce the amount of tax due. 


Apply for probate

A grant of probate gives you the legal right to deal with someone’s estate, and you can apply via post by completing a PA1 form and the relevant inheritance tax form.

You can call the probate and inheritance tax helpline to request the forms. You should then send the documents to the local probate registry, along with:

  • a certified copy of the death certificate
  • the original will, plus three copies
  • the fee of £215.

If your application is successful, you can start distributing the estate according to the deceased’s will.

If you need help dealing with your duties as the executor of a will, including paying inheritance tax, reach out to the team at Harries Watkins Jones.


The information provided is of a general nature. It is not a substitute for specific advice in your own circumstances. You are recommended to obtain specific professional advice from an appropriate professional before you take any action or refrain from action. Whilst we endeavour to use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate, complete, reliable, error free and up-to-date information, we do not warrant that it is such. We and our associates disclaim all warranties. The information can only provide an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice.

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