Duties of a Will Executor: What They Do

What power does an executor of a Will have?

When someone dies, they leave their estate behind. This will include any property they own, investments, pensions or personal possessions. The role of an executor is to handle these assets and distribute them amongst beneficiaries named in the Will.

A Will executor has the legal authority to deal with banks, utility companies and solicitors on the deceased person’s behalf. They will essentially be able to access anything that’s necessary for the distribution of the estate.

If you’ve been made the executor of a Will, you might be wondering where to start. In this guide, we’ve listed some of the main responsibilities of an executor. So you’ll have a better idea of what to do, and in what order.

Will executor duties

You might have heard of the term ‘executor’ before, but what does the executor of a Will actually do?

These are some of the main responsibilities you can expect to take on if you’re asked to administer an estate:

  • Registering the death
    If no one else is able to register the deceased person’s death, an executor will need to perform this duty. This will usually only apply if the person who made the Will no longer has any living family.
  • Locating the Will
    If you haven’t already, it’s important that you locate the Will in question. Even if you know that the person who has died wanted you to administer their estate, you’ll need to have it in writing to apply for probate.
  • Arranging the funeral
    Funeral wishes aren’t legally binding. But as an executor, you should make an effort to follow any instructions that were left behind. There may be family members who help you with this, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to do this part alone.
  • Identifying all assets and debts
    As an executor, you’ll need to evaluate all of the deceased person’s assets, as well as their debts. Make sure to include property, vehicles, jewellery, furniture, cash, savings, stocks, shares and any other personal belongings. You should also make a list of debts – including mortgages, loans and credit card balances.
  • Valuing the estate
    Once you know what the deceased person’s assets are, the next step will be to have them valued. This will help you work out whether there will be anything left to pass on to beneficiaries after debts have been cleared.
  • Applying for probate
    A grant of probate will give you the legal right to deal with the property, money and possessions of the person who has died. You can apply for probate through the Probate Registry.
  • Dealing with the finances of the deceased
    You’ll need to inform banks, credit providers and insurance companies of the death, as well as close the accounts and cancel any direct debits. You should also check whether anything is owed on the accounts or if there have been any overpayments.
  • Paying off debts
    If the deceased person had any outstanding debts, they will need to be paid off. This will usually come out of the estate, so it’s important that you settle outstanding payments before distributing assets.
  • Distributing the estate
    After clearing any debts, it will be time to distribute the estate to beneficiaries named in the Will. You should make sure to follow the instructions set out in the Will when doing this. If you don’t, you could risk a probate dispute.
  • Paying any inheritance tax
    Inheritance tax will be owed on estates valued at more than £325,000. Anything above this threshold will be taxed at 40%. There are certain exceptions to this though, as we’ve explained in our guide to inheritance tax.

Being an executor is demanding at times, and it can help to have a legal expert on your side. Our Wills, estates and probate solicitors can help you navigate the process, so you won’t be going through it alone.

Can a Will be changed without the executor knowing?

It’s not technically necessary for an executor to be informed of changes made to a Will. But it could help when it comes to distributing the estate. Executors are expected to follow the wishes set out in a Will, so it’s important that they’re kept updated.

For example, if you’ve written a Will and decide to update it with a codicil, your executor might not be aware of the addition unless you tell them. This means there is a danger that they will unintentionally go against your wishes.

Who can be an executor of a Will?

The executor of a Will must be over 18 with mental capacity. They should also be someone the writer of the Will trusts completely. Some people will choose family members or friends, while others choose to use a probate solicitor.

If you’re named as a beneficiary in the Will, you can still act as an executor. In fact, this is quite common. But one thing a beneficiary cannot do is witness the signing of the Will. This would mean that you would no longer be entitled to receive your inheritance.

Whether you’re acting as an executor yourself, or you’re choosing someone to administer your estate, we could help you. Our solicitors are experts in this area and will use their experience to support you.

To find out more, give us a call or start your enquiry online.

Note: First4Lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances.


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