The role of an Executor: what you need to know

A couple of my recent cases have highlighted issues in relation to the appointment of Executors.  If you have been appointed as an Executor, it is important that you know and understand your duties and responsibilities. 

What is an Executor?

Anyone who makes a Will must name an Executor. The Executor is legally responsible for handling a person’s money, their property and their possessions when they die. A person may be appointed as an Executor even though they are a beneficiary of a Will. Often an Executor is a person’s spouse, their child or other family member.

What if there is no Will?

If there is no Will, then an administrator must be appointed by the Court. The person who may be appointed as the administrator is specified by the Intestacy Laws. This is in accordance with a strict legal order of priority. If you do not make a Will then you will have no choice as to who administers your estate.

What does an Executor do?

The below provides an overview of the tasks that an Executor must carry out, there may be additional tasks depending on the circumstances of the estate:

  • Identify and value the deceased’s assets and liabilities.
  • Gain control of the assets and ensure that the property is secure.
  • Apply for a Grant of Probate (where required).
  • Convert the assets into money (where appropriate).
  • Pay any outstanding taxes (including inheritance, income and capital gains) and debts from the estate.
  • Prepare and distribute Estate Accounts to relevant parties.
  • Carry out the instructions in the Will and properly distribute the Estate.

Breach of Duty

It is crucial to get everything right as an Executor is legally responsible for the estate administration. The Executor owes a duty of care both to creditors of the estate and to the beneficiaries. An executor can be held personally financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty.

Can an Executor change their mind?

Acting as an Executor of a Will can be a daunting prospect. After a person has died, but before the Executor has started to deal with the estate, they can complete a Deed of Renunciation. However, once an Executor has started to deal with the estate they cannot step down. If you instruct a Solicitor to act for you in connection with the estate administration, then the Solicitor would be undertaking the duties and responsibilities on your behalf.

How can we assist?

The above information is not comprehensive although it does provide an overview. If you do require assistance in administering an estate or should you wish to amend your Will, please chat to our friendly Life Planning team at Guest Walker who will be able to help – telephone us on 01904 624903 or email

Nick Clarke
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