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The executor of a will

The executor of a will

Thinking about your own death isn’t much fun, but it’s important you have a plan in place when it comes to your assets. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing an executor for your will.

Kamran Altaf
From the Life team
minute read
posted 31 MARCH 2020

What is an executor?

An executor is the person whose duty it is to deal with the estate, including the will, of a person after they die. If that person didn’t leave a will, then the individual who takes care of their estate is known as the administrator.  

A person’s estate could consist of:

  • Any property they owned
  • Money held in a bank or building society  
  • Stocks and shares, including ISAs and other investments  
  • Pensions  
  • Personal possessions and heirlooms  

Additionally, there may be proceeds of a life insurance policy – to cover things like funeral costs – to take care of. Read more in our guide to funeral cover. 

What does an executor do?

  • Seeking the grant of a probate, which is often the first step in administering an estate - you apply for the official grant yourself or by using a solicitor.
  • Finding all the financial documentation belonging to the deceased person
  • Sending the death certificate to the organisation(s) holding a person’s assets, such as their former employer
  • Asking them to confirm bank balances and also to freeze any accounts which were active at the time of a person’s death
  • Verifying any debts owed to the estate, or any debt owed by it
  • Preparing a detailed list of everything owned by the estate
  • Paying any inheritance tax that may be outstanding

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

An executor should try to sort out the tax or benefits of an estate as soon as possible, as there may be tax to pay or a rebate due. Learn more about tax and life insurance. Also, you’ll need to tell the tax office and any other departments that were paying benefits at the time the person passed away.

Who can be the executor of a will?

Anybody aged at 18 and over can be an executor of a will. That includes anyone named as a beneficiary – however, they can’t be one of the official witnesses to your will. People commonly choose their spouse or civil partner, or their children, to be their executor.

As many as four executors can act at a time, but they all have to act jointly so it may not be a good idea to appoint that many. You could pick one member of your family and a professional, for example a solicitor. You’re allowed to choose substitute executors in case your original executor dies before (or around the same time) as you.

How should I choose my executor?

One of the most important factors is to pick someone who you really trust. They’ll need to be able to follow all the instructions that you leave in your will – and to find solutions to any problems that may arise. Choosing an executor who has legal experience and a sharp eye for detail could also be a good idea.

What if I have outstanding debts?

If you think you’re going to die owing money, you should try to ensure your creditors are easy to find. If there’s enough money tied up in your estate to pay for the debts, these will need to be paid. If the deceased’s assets won’t cover any outstanding debts, a creditor cannot recover this from surviving relatives - unless the debts were jointly owed.

Compare life insurance

Getting the right life insurance policy can be invaluable to your loved ones if you were to pass away. Data from Assured Futures in February 2020 showed that 10% of people could achieve a quote of £11.40 per month for their over 50's life insurance.

Get a life insurance quote now and see if you could save.

**10% of people could achieve a quote of £11.40 per month for their over 50's life insurance or less based on Assured Futures data in February 2020.

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