The role of executor of a will or administrator of an estate

08 March 2016

Being appointed as executor for a loved one who has died, or having to take up the role of administrator of an estate where there is no Will, is a position of great responsibility. Getting it wrong can be costly, causing delay and distress to everyone involved. Alison Elwess, senior solicitor, looks at what personal representatives should be aware of.

The perils and pitfalls of life as a personal representative

Being appointed as executor for a loved one who has died, or having to take up the role of administrator of an estate where there is no Will, is a position of great responsibility. Getting it wrong can be costly, causing delay and distress to everyone involved.

As an Executor or administrator, also known as a personal representative (PR), you should be aware of the following:

HMRC

Before being able to apply for a grant of probate/ letters of administration, the assets of the estate must be valued promptly and accurately for inheritance tax (IHT) purposes as late or inaccurate IHT returns incur penalties. Furthermore, liability for income tax and capital gains tax does not cease upon death, so you must ensure that the deceased’s tax affairs are up to date, and account for any tax which becomes due during the administration period.

Outstanding liabilities

You must ensure sufficient funds are available to settle all outstanding liabilities before distributing funds to beneficiaries. You may have to pay creditors from your own pocket if you do not make full enquiries and consequently fail to discharge debts from funds in the estate.

Litigation

You may have to continue dealing with a pre-existing claim, or claims which arise during the administration e.g. certain family members who have not been adequately provided for may be entitled to bring a claim against the estate. If you act negligently or dishonestly you may find yourself facing personal liability to beneficiaries to compensate them for losses suffered by the estate.

Individuals seem increasingly willing to tackle the process of obtaining the grant, and the subsequent administration of the estate, themselves* but are these individuals who do a ‘DIY’ job always aware of all that may be required of them?

If you have been appointed as a PR, and would like peace of mind on your obligations, please contact me or any of our team for expert advice and support throughout this complex process.

*Source: statistics compiled in 2013 by probate technology company The Law Wizard indicated a 13% increase in personal grant applications from 2007


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