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The Role of the Executor

The executor’s job has been described as both an honour and a burden. Their job is to sort out a person’s estate once they have died. It is essentially “To collect, get in and administer according to the law the estate of the deceased” in accordance with the terms of the will.

Anyone can perform the role; people who stand to inherit from the will can also become the executors, it is not a barrier and it is also quite likely that, if asked, you will not be the only one who has been asked to perform the role. It can be shared between as many as four people although the average is two. It is a heavy responsibility because the executor is legally responsible for administering the estate according to the wishes of the will. They are responsible for everything they do or fail to do in this regard. The size of the job depends entirely on the estate of the deceased. Whilst there is very little to do on some estates, apart from closing down a couple of bank accounts and distributing the money, on others there is considerably more.

What does the job entail?

The executor needs to:

  • Collect all the assets and the money due to the deceased’s person’s estate.
  • Pay any outstanding taxes and debts out of the estate.
  • Distribute the estate to the people who are entitled to receive it under the terms of the will.
  • Ensure that the property owned by the deceased is kept safe as soon as possible after they have died.

Registering the death
One of the executor’s first tasks may be to register the death and obtain a death certificate. This is a job that may of course be done by the next of kin, but often that may be the executor of the will too. 

The executor may have to make arrangements for the funeral of the deceased who might have left specific instructions for organ donation and the funeral itself. The executor should check that there is sufficient money in the estate to meet the costs. Though the bank and building society accounts of the deceased will have been frozen after his or her death, usually the executor will be able to withdraw small amounts to pay for the funeral.

The executor is entitled to be paid reasonable expenses for undertaking this role as it is not intended to make it a financial burden for them. However only professional executors are actually paid for their time unless the will specifically states otherwise. It is a job for life in a sense as the work may not be completed once the money is distributed.  Any claims which may arise in the future will have to be dealt with in the correct manner.

Because of the complexities and extent of the role you should think carefully about its implications before making a decision on whether to accept the responsibility or not. It can be difficult to reverse that decision later and certainly you would be unable to get out of the role once you have started carrying out the actions as an executor.

If you do change your mind, you should discuss the matter with the person who appointed you to the role as they will have to change their will. If you change your mind once the person has died, you should contact the Probate Registry to inform them of your change of heart. You will then have to complete what is known as a letter of renunciation.