The risks and responsibilities of acting as an executor of a will
October 11, 2021
Although in principle it may be flattering, being appointed as an executor of a will is not something to be taken lightly. The role not only involves substantial work but comes with serious risks and responsibilities. It is vital to understand these at the outset so, if you do decide to take on the task, you can seek any legal assistance you need.
One of the main roles of an executor is to obtain and fill out official documentation. Dealing with detailed financial forms is not always a straightforward task. It’s crucial to be accurate when it comes to HMRC to make sure enough tax is being paid, particularly when errors could result in a substantial penalty being issued. Tax rules, reliefs available and types of potential claims against the estate are just a few of the complex issues you will need to navigate.
It is not uncommon for the executor to find that they are personally liable to settle costs. Funeral costs or any inheritance tax that’s owing could land on your shoulders if funds are not readily available in the estate. In the case where income tax is not paid before money is distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate, the executor could also be liable to fork out the tax.
Disputes with heirs
Naturally executors must deal with the beneficiaries of the will. From settling the estate and dealing with those who might have expected more from the will to emotional family members trying to cope with the death of their loved one, conflicts are inevitable. Awkward confrontations, resolving feuds and communicating with beneficiaries making individual demands could prove to be troublesome and stressful.
It takes time
You can be certain that the tasks of an executor will take up more time than you might imagine. Investigating the full extent of assets and debts and waiting to hear from third parties, such as accountants, banks, investment companies, utility providers and HMRC, can be a lengthy process. Complications along the way, such as waiting for accounts to be unfrozen or disputes to be resolved, can also cause further delays.
More than often, executors accept the job before learning exactly what’s involved. Once an executor decides their duties are unmanageable, a lawyer needs to be contacted to make a court application in order to formally resign from the role. This process is lengthy and requires spending the estate money. It’s best to seek professional legal advice from the start to avoid ending up in this undesirable position.
At Marsons Solicitors we are experienced in assisting with the executor process as much or as little as you need. If you’re happy to do some of the work yourself to keep costs down, we can advise you on what needs to be done and help complete the probate and tax forms. Alternatively, we can do all of the hard work for you and relieve you of what can be a big responsibility.
The information contained in this article is intended for general guidance only. It provides useful information but it is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice as the articles do not take into account specific circumstances. So do please Contact US for legal advice on the issues raised.