How to be Executor of a Will

Dealing with the death of someone can be hard enough especially if it’s a family member or friend. Having to look after the financial affairs of the person that passed away can make things even more daunting. Here, we’ll give you a little detail to explain what steps you need to take if you find yourself in this position.


An estate

The person dealing with the financial affairs of someone after they have passed away is usually known as the executor or administrator depending on whether there was a will or not.

When a person passes away, everything they own is known collectively as their estate. It could consist of:

  • Property including their home
  • Money. Cash in banks or a building society for example. There may also be proceeds of a life insurance policy to cover things like funeral costs.
  • Stocks and shares including ISAs and other investments
  • Pensions
  • Personal possessions and heirlooms

If the person has any debts, these will need to be paid off from the estate. If the person had a will, the estate will be passed on in accordance with its wishes. If the person passed away without leaving a will, it will be distributed according to a set of legal rules called the rules of intestacy.

If there is no will, the administrator will need to apply for letters of administration before they can deal with the estate. There is no fee for an estate valued at under £5,000, otherwise the fee is £215.

You can ask for help from a solicitor but be careful as it could become expensive. If it appears that there are not enough resources to cover outstanding debts, you should seek advice as insolvent estates are complicated to administer.

Your responsibilities

As an executor or administrator you have certain responsibilities:

  • Find all the financial documentation belonging to the person
  • Send the death certificate to the organisations holding the person’s assets
  • Ask them to confirm balances and also to freeze any accounts
  • Verify any debts owed to the estate or debts owed by it
  • Prepare a detailed list of everything owned by the estate
  • Pay any inheritance tax that is due
  • Collecting money belonging to the estate from banks, insurance companies, pension funds, once probate or letters of administration have been granted

(Probate is the process of carrying out someone’s wishes after they pass away.) 

how to be executor of a will

Tax and benefits

You should try to sort out the tax and benefit aspects of an estate as soon as possible. There may be tax to pay or a rebate due.

You’ll need to tell the tax office and any other departments that were paying benefits at the time of the person passed away.

It is worth investigating the Government’s ‘Tell Us Once’ service which should prevent you having to contact multiple departments with the same news.

Inheritance tax may have to be paid if the estate is valued at more than £325,000¹. There are some exceptions to this, so if you are not familiar with the rules you will need to do some research or take some advice.

¹ Figure is correct as at 2016/2017 tax year.


If the person who passed away owed money, you’ll need to advise the people that they owed, known as creditors. If there is enough money in the estate to pay for the debts these will need to be paid. If there isn’t enough to cover the debts, creditors cannot recover the debt from surviving relatives unless it was a jointly owned debt.

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