What does your will executor need to know?

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What does your will executor need to know?

It’s a big thing to be asked to be the executor of someone’s will. It means that they trust you and value your judgement, as well as consider you a close friend and, importantly, someone who can be impartial should it be necessary. We have talked before about what makes a good will executor – click here for a refresher – but we haven’t really talked in depth about what you may have to do when the time comes. So the time has come to do just that.

The first steps

The first thing that you will need to do is to get a copy of the will. You will know where it is, that is one of the things you should have discussed in advance. From here you need to decide whether or not you can manage alone or call in the professionals to help you. Whatever you decide, you still have responsibilities as the executor although with the help of a probate specialist or solicitor you will get the assistance and advice you need on legal matters if you are not familiar with them.

Understanding the estate

The deceased will have a number of assets, some of which may not be included in the will. Things such as pensions or life insurance policies are ones that you will not have any control over as the executor as all the details will have been arranged at the time that the policies or accounts were set up. The same goes for things such as property where there is a surviving beneficiary. However, these assets still make up the sum total of the estate so you need to be aware of them. Any taxes that are incurred as a result of their existence and pay-out will need to be dealt with by you as the executor.

Filing probate

If you have elected to manage the process on your own, then you are also responsible for filing the will with the court, this process can be quite daunting as it involves informing the Inland revenue the exact estate position and ensuring the deceased did not give their estate or parts thereof in the seven years prior to their passing.  This can also involve dealing with inheritance tax.

Debts and taxes

You will be responsible for settling any outstanding debts and paying any taxes. If there are insufficient funds in the estate to do this then you will have to sell assets – such as a home or business – to ensure that all debts and taxes are paid.

Distribution of assets

Once debts and taxes have been settled, any remaining assets can now be distributed to the beneficiaries, as set out in the will. It is your responsibility to make sure that what has been set out in the will is honoured.

Dealing with disputes

You may have to deal with a family dispute if there are disagreements with what is in the will or if anyone decides to contest it. This is one of the reasons you were chosen – you are impartial and will know the deceased’s wishes well – so this is the time to remain calm and defend those wishes.

For advice on choosing the right executor or what you need to do if you are one, we at Probate London are here to help. You can email us at or call us on 020 8017 1029 for a chat or to make an appointment.

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