Ideally it should not come as a surprise if someone dies and you are notified that you have been appointed as Executor of their Will. Although, by law, you do not need Executors to agree to act in advance it is always a good idea to try to forewarn them, and to make sure they would be happy to take on the role. We also recommend that our Will clients advise those they wish to appoint as Executors where the Will and other important documents can be found. This will make it so much easier for them to act.
In some cases, very simple estates do not require Grant of Probate, for example where only small amounts of money are involved, or on the death of a spouse if all assets are in joint names. If ‘Probate’ is needed this means completing HMRC forms and making an application to the Probate Registry.
If you are appointed as Executor and you find that Probate is needed, there are various options open to you. The main three options are –
1. To get professional help with acting as an Executor from a solicitor or probate firm. They will deal with everything on your behalf and submit the relevant forms to the Probate Registry and HMRC. Once Probate is obtained, they will also make sure assets are gathered in, property is sold and any debts are paid, before distributing the estate in accordance with the Will (or the Law of Intestacy where there wasn’t a Will). The fees incurred should be a paid out of the estate, provided sufficient funds are held. This is of course the more costly option.
2. To gather all the information yourself and then seek professional help to apply for the Grant of Probate on your behalf. The forms involved are quite complex and if completed incorrectly, this may result in additional costs and delays with settling the estate.
3. To do all the work yourself and submit all the relevant documents and forms to the Probate Registry and HMRC. Some people do feel able to cope with this, but as the forms are lengthy and complicated it is only really advisable to take on this work if you are completely confident about being able to do it accurately.
If you choose option one or two, we at A R K are here to help you deal with things as quickly and in as stress free a way as possible.
What happens if you don’t want to take on the role of Executor of a Will?
1. You can renounce (resign) from the role – if you want to completely opt out of the role of Executor, you can choose to officially renounce your position. This is done by completing a Deed of Renunciation which you will sign and submit to the Probate Registry. There is no going back if you take this action, so you need to be certain about your decision before going ahead. You can only do this if you have not already carried out any duties that an Executor should perform, such as closing accounts and settling debts, etc.
2. You can reserve your right to apply for Probate – you can apply for ‘Power Reserved’ if there are other Executors who can take on the responsibilities. This allows you to step back from applying for Grant of Probate but still gives you the option to help out if needed. This is a good option if perhaps you would like some involvement but do not have time to do the practical signing and sorting of paperwork.
3. You can appoint someone else to take on the role – the final option is to appoint someone (not a professional) to carry out the work on your behalf. To do this you would need a Lasting Power of Attorney appointing someone to act on your behalf. This would only be a last resort and usually happens only where an appointed Executor lacks mental capacity, maybe through ill health.
At A R K we are here to help and support Executors as much as we can, and we offer free initial advice. When making your Will with us we will discuss your choice of Executor to help ensure no problems arise. We also have some useful resources on our website which can be used by anyone making a Will, and to help you understand the work that is needed by an executor.