Top ten: The responsibilities of the executor made more manageable

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EACH week The Scotsman gives you a top ten guide to pertinent financial issues. Executors are responsible for administering the estate left by the deceased in their will, but it can be a difficult and complex role to carry out. Fiona Shields, paralegal and head of executories at Pagan Osborne, shares her top tips on being an executor.

1 LOCATING THE WILL The deceased person should have a copy of the will in their home, including the details of the solicitor or bank who prepared the will. You must retrieve the principal will, as you cannot use a copy.

It is important to note that even if you acted under a power of attorney during the deceased's lifetime, this does not give you the right to act as executor. The executor is either appointed in the will or, where there is no will, by the court.

2 THE FUNERAL An executor may be required to arrange the funeral and register the death. If so, you must contact your local registrars office within eight days from the death to register it with the following documents relating to the deceased: birth certificate, marriage/civil partnership certificate, NHS medical card, National Insurance number and Form 11 Medical Certificate from the undertaker. If you are unable to find a birth/marriage certificate you can contact the General Register Office for Scotland in Edinburgh certificate ordering service and they can issue a copy.

3 ESTATE INVENTORY Gather together the deceased's papers and list the assets of their estate, known as the inventory. This should feature all assets including property in the deceased's name whether held as an individual or jointly with someone else.

An executor must obtain values of all the assets of the estate at the date of death including property, shares and interest accrued on bank accounts. You can value stocks and shares quoted on the London Stock Exchange by finding the price of the shares in the financial pages of a newspaper. Remember a newspaper printed on the day of death will have share prices for the day before. There is advice on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website on working out the value of the shares.

4 DEBTS AND LIABILITIES An executor needs to obtain details of all debts and liabilities as at the date of death, including the funeral account. If there are sufficient funds, the bill for the funeral can be passed to the bank.

5 GIFT DETAILS You must obtain details of any gifts of cash or assets the deceased made in the seven years prior to their death as this value is added to the estate for inheritance tax (IHT) purposes.

6 SMALL ESTATE If the gross value of the estate is under 30,000, you can contact the local sheriff court for assistance with the estate. If you are asked to obtain confirmation (probate or letters of administration), or the estate is over 30,000, then it is likely that you will need the services of a solicitor.

7 HMRC PAPERWORK Forms and a guide can be found on HMRC website. If applicable, IHT is to be paid when these forms are submitted.

An executor can access the deceased's bank accounts, or National Savings & Investments, to pay the bill. IHT on a property can be paid in instalments but if a house is sold the instalment option ceases and the IHT must be paid in full.

8 LODGING THE PAPERS The court forms and an inventory of an estate need to be sent to the court, you do not need to appear at the court. Once the court grants Confirmation (the Scottish equivalent of probate) then you will be able to deal with the administration of the estate.

9 ADMINISTRATION An executor will need to sell or transfer the assets of the estate and settle any debts, liabilities or cash legacies in terms of the will and any expenses incurred in relation to duties as an executor which must be fully receipted.

10 FINAL STATEMENT Prepare a statement showing all receipts and payments in connection with the estate and distribute the estate to the beneficiaries in terms of the will.