When a loved one passes away, dealing with legal responsibilities may feel like the last thing you want to do.
If you’ve been named the executor of a will, you may ask: “What power does an executor of a will have in the UK?”
This blog aims to answer that question, providing an overview of your responsibilities and your powers to carry them out.
What power does an executor of a will have?
Managing the estate
As an executor, you essentially become the temporary caretaker of the deceased’s estate, stepping in to manage and protect their assets.
This covers a wide range of responsibilities, from safeguarding bank accounts, property, investments, and vehicles to personal belongings like jewellery and art.
Your duties include notifying banks, building societies, and other relevant organisations of the person’s death.
It also involves securing properties, changing locks or insuring empty buildings if necessary, and ensuring any valuable personal belongings are safe.
This might mean gathering financial statements, assessing the contents of safety deposit boxes, or even securing and maintaining real estate until it can be sold or transferred.
The complexity of these responsibilities varies with the complexity of the estate.
Valuing the estate
You’ll need to establish the estate’s value to distribute the assets. That involves a detailed assessment of the deceased’s assets and liabilities.
Start by making a thorough inventory of all assets. This includes bank accounts, investment portfolios, property, vehicles, and personal belongings of value.
Some items, like art, jewellery or antiques, may require a professional valuation to accurately determine their current market value.
In some cases, you may be required to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on any appreciation of assets.
On the other side of the ledger, you must account for any debts the deceased owed.
This could be mortgages, personal loans, credit card debts, or due bills.
Don’t forget to account for any funeral expenses, which can also be paid out of the estate’s assets.
This valuation process can be protracted, but an estate valuation service can provide invaluable support, ensuring every asset is accounted for and appropriately valued.
Settling inheritance tax
You’ll normally need to complete an inheritance tax return for the deceased, and pay any inheritance tax that’s due.
Inheritance tax applies if the estate’s value exceeds a certain threshold, currently £325,000 (this can increase as there are a number of exemptions and reliefs that may be claimable).
Remember, dealing with taxes can be complex, and mistakes can be costly.
Don’t hesitate to contact a tax adviser or probate specialist for assistance. They can help you navigate this process, ensuring all tax obligations are correctly met.
Applying for probate
After settling debts and taxes, the next step is applying for a Grant of Probate.
This legal document grants you the official authority to manage the deceased’s assets and handle the distribution of the estate.
The application process involves completing and submitting a probate application form and an inheritance tax form.
In addition to these forms, you’ll also need to provide an official copy of the death certificate and the original will.
Again, probate specialists can guide you through the process and help you understand and complete the required paperwork, interpret any complex legal terms, and provide advice throughout the probate process.
Distributing the estate
Once you’ve secured the Grant of Probate, you are legally empowered to distribute the deceased’s estate according to the will.
This could involve various tasks, from simply transferring funds to beneficiaries to more complex procedures, such as transferring property deeds or shares in a company.
You are also responsible for settling any outstanding debts and taxes. This might involve paying off loans or credit card balances, settling utility bills or any other debts.
As part of this process, you will need to prepare a final account. This document records all the transactions related to the estate, detailing all payments in and out, and providing a transparent record of the distribution of assets.
As the executor, you will be the point of contact for any claims against the estate and may be required to manage discussions or mediate disputes. You might need to defend the will in court in more complex cases.
In such scenarios, dispute resolution services or legal advice from a probate lawyer can be invaluable.
We hope that answers the question of “what power does an executor of a will have in the UK.”
Navigating through these responsibilities can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone.
We’re here to provide the help you need every step of the way, whether it’s applying for the Grant of Probate, distributing the estate, or inheritance tax advice.