For those nearest, whether it is a relative or the appointed executor, it is important to understand what the process is, and the roles required to carry out the deceased’s wishes.
When someone dies, there can often be complex arrangements and wishes to fulfil, and this is where someone trusted by the deceased to assume the role of executor needs to take on a number of responsibilities.
What is an executor?
An executor is the person or persons named in a will, or appointed by the court if there is no will, as being responsible for the administration of a deceased person’s estate. If you are appointed as executor, your responsibilities will include the following tasks:
Identifying the assets and debts of the estate (all the money and property owned, and debts owed by the deceased);
preparing an application to court for a grant of Confirmation (if Confirmation is required – this depends on the circumstances of the estate);
settling any debts or expenses due;
calculating and paying inheritance tax and other taxes, if due;
ingathering the financial assets of the estate (this may include selling the deceased person’s property);
distributing the proceeds of the estate to the beneficiaries.
What is a beneficiary?
The beneficiaries of an estate are the people who will inherit the assets from it. These may include the deceased person’s house, money or personal effects.
There can be multiple beneficiaries named in a will or just one. Depending on the terms of the will, the beneficiary may be entitled to a percentage share of the overall estate, a particular asset or a cash sum. Beneficiaries tend not to be involved in the administration of the estate, unless they are also appointed as an executor.
Can an executor inherit under a will?
An executor can also be a beneficiary and inherit from the will they are executing. When preparing a will, you can name someone as both an executor and beneficiary – in fact, this is quite common. In these cases, the executor/beneficiary needs to be mindful of the potential for conflict between these different roles.
An executor must bear in mind the various duties that the role requires of them. One of these duties is to act in the interest of all the beneficiaries of the estate.
If the executor is one of a number of beneficiaries in the estate, when making important decisions, they must remember their responsibility to all of the beneficiaries and not just themselves.
In estates that are particularly contentious, there could be potential for a conflict of interest to arise between the roles of executor and beneficiary. However, in the vast majority of cases there are no issues and if the executor appoints a solicitor to act on their behalf, the solicitor can advise the executor of their duties and help ensure the administration process runs smoothly.
What if there is no will?
If the deceased has not left a will, the intestacy procedure will apply. Applications for appointment as executor of the estate need to be submitted to a sheriff court. This process may take longer than usual at this time because the courts are operating with restricted numbers of staff.
Here to help you
The personal law solicitors at Gibson Kerr are happy to help you with the process of administering an estate. They are working remotely and able to hold a telephone or video meeting with you (through Skype, Zoom or similar).