What is an executor?

Executors are people named in a will to carry out the last wishes of a person who has died. If there is no will, the person responsible for this is known as an administrator. Where there is a will, there can be up to four executors named.

Our guide to intestacy, where there is no will, gives guidance on who can act in this case.

What does an executor do?

The work involved in being an executor varies greatly, depending the estate’s complexity, and the wishes in the will. The main responsibilities of an executor include:

  • Identifying estate assets and debts, including bank accounts, shares, and property, and debts including mortgages, credit cards, overdrafts and loans
  • Contacting all financial institutions to confirm the values of all assets at the date of death
  • Contacting valuers to arrange a valuation at the date of death of any property, vehicles or personal possessions
  • Securing any property and arranging for it to be insured in the name of the executor
  • Preparing a schedule of all valuations of the assets and debts once these have been confirmed
  • Opening an executors account so that any monies belonging to the estate can be paid into it
  • Working out if there is any inheritance tax to pay, and arranging to pay this to HMRC
  • Sending inheritance tax forms, where necessary, to HMRC to confirm whether or not any inheritance is payable
  • Preparing an application for a Grant of Probate and sending this to the Probate Registry
  • Collecting in all money belonging to the estate from the financial institutions once Probate has been issued
  • Paying all debts of the estate, including any funeral expenses and legal fees
  • Preparing estate accounts to give a clear picture of the estate and its finances
  • Arranging to pay the beneficiaries their entitlement under the will, or arranging to transfer assets to them

If you are unsure whether there is enough money in the estate to pay all the debts, please read our guide to Insolvent Estates.

For guidance on preparing estate accounts, read: Understanding and preparing estate accounts

The will mentions that I am also a trustee. Is this the same thing?

It is common for someone to name the same people as both their executors and trustees. A trustee is someone who holds assets on behalf of another person (known as a beneficiary).

Sometimes, to maintain some degree of independence, a person will name different people as their executors and trustees. This is particularly common where a second marriage or stepchildren are involved.

Can an executor also be a beneficiary?

Yes, you can still be a beneficiary to someone’s will. Being an executor does not affect your right to receive anything which has been left to you. It also does not affect your role as executor.

What about if I witnessed the will?

Yes, you can still be an executor if you were one of the two witnesses to the will. However, if you’re also a beneficiary, you lose your entitlement to anything left to you in the will. If someone you know intends to name you as a beneficiary, avoid witnessing their will for this reason.

Do I get paid for being an executor?

Unless you are a professional executor, such as a Solicitor’s firm, you are not entitled to payment for your time as an executor. Instead, you can claim for reasonable expenses which you may have incurred during the administration of the estate. Reasonable expenses include postage or mileage for driving to a property to clear it and to inspect it.

You may also find yourself paying for items such as death certificates, funeral expenses, or property expenses. You should keep a record of all items paid by you on behalf of the estate. Once the estate bank accounts have been closed, you can claim your expenses back from the estate.

Other Useful Guides

Dealing with personal belongings after a death

Dealing with vehicles after a death

Do I need to pay inheritance tax?