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Guide to acting as an Executor

| Duncan & Toplis | 11 October 2021

Whether you’re looking to choose executors for your own will or you’re an executor for someone’s estate, the whole process can be a confusing and daunting experience. 

An executor is the person/s legally responsible for ensuring an individual’s wishes are carried out after they die. If you’re writing a will, you’ll need to name one or more people as your executor. 

You have the ultimate decision as to who you make your executor/s, but it’s not a decision to take lightly, as it’s a process that can take several months - if not longer. 

Roles of an executor

Being named as an executor is a lot of responsibility, so it’s important to understand the number of roles you may be required to undertake following your family member or friend's death. 

Registering the death 

If there is no one available to register the death, the executor will be required to send certified copies of the death certificate to financial institutions. This may include insurance companies, banks and building societies, for instance. 

Securing their property

It’s important to make sure any property that was previously owned by the person who has died, is secure, as soon after their death as possible. This means checking and locking doors, windows, garages, sheds and outbuildings on the property. It’s also wise to turn off all electrical appliances except for any alarm systems. You may also want to move valuables from the home to a safer location and turn on the heating during the winter months. As executor, your duty is to maintain the property and ensure that any damage is repaired, so visiting the property regularly is a must. You must also inform the deceased home insurer that the property is empty immediately so the policy can be amended.

Collecting assets 

After finding all financial documentation relating to the deceased person, you’ll need to work out how much money is owed to and by the estate, and then value the estate based on this information. Any outstanding taxes and debts out of the estate will also need to be paid. 

Applying for probate 

As an executor, the likelihood is you’ll need to apply and wait for probate. Probate is the official term for gaining legal permission to access and distribute a deceased person's assets - such as property or money. Although there’s no rush to apply for probate, we advise the executor to start the application early, to avoid long waits in possible disputes or inheritance tax issues. 

Probate forms can be applied for online, but it’s important to fill in the forms as accurately as possible, as making even a small mistake can cause delays in the process. Your local probate office will let you know when they’ve received your application but you can also get in touch with the government’s probate helpline on 0300 303 0648 to track its progress. 

If you need help or advice during your probate application, our team can help value your assets and help you avoid any mistakes. 

Selling property

As executor, it’s down to you to decide when to sell the deceased person's property so their beneficiaries get the most money. You’ll have overall authority over the property sale, and can therefore accept offers from potential buyers. However, you must act in the beneficiaries’ best interest, which means selling the property for a reasonable and fair price. 

If a property is sold under market value by the executor, the beneficiaries could start a claim against you for failing to fulfil your duties or even apply to have you removed as an executor.  

Tax forms 

Executors must ensure all tax forms are completed and that the correct inheritance tax, capital gains tax (if an asset has increased in value) and that income tax is paid. This can be a tricky and rather arduous task, and you may want to ask for professional advice and help at this stage, to make the process as straightforward as possible.

Funeral arrangements

The executor tends to be the person responsible for arranging and covering the costs of the funeral. As the executor has access to the deceased person's estate, you may be able to fund the funeral costs through the savings or assets left behind - rather than personally funding the event yourself.

More often than not, the person has a funeral plan or life insurance policy in place to cover the costs of the funeral in the will. This should simplify matters,  meaning you can carry out the wishes set out with minimal additional planning.


Acting as an executor when your close friend or family member has died is a difficult and often complicated process - particularly because you may also be grieving.

Often it helps to have expert help to guide you through the process to help make things easier and to avoid complications. Get in touch with our team to find out how we can help you. 


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