The duties of an executor: executor of will checklist

An executor of a will is responsible for dealing with the estate of the person who died. This includes valuing the estate, selling property, closing accounts, paying off debts and distributing assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.

An executor of a will has a very important role to play in making sure the wishes of the person who died are followed.

For most people, being an executor is something you’ll only do once or twice in your life, so it can be helpful to do a bit of research to make sure you’re getting things right

To help you out, we’ve pulled together a simple checklist to help you understand how to be an executor of a will.

1. Register the death

The first thing you need to do after someone dies is register their death. You’ll then be given a death certificate that allows you to arrange the funeral, apply for probate and deal with the estate.

You need to register a death within five days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or within eight days in Scotland. If there’s a coroner’s inquest into the death, you may be given an extension, but in most cases it’s best to register the death as soon as possible.

To register a death, you need to contact your local register office and arrange an appointment. You can find your local register office using the links below:

Please note: If you’re an executor of a will but aren’t related to the person who died, you may need to ask a family member to register the death instead. Find out more about how to register a death.

2. Get a copy of the will

Once you’ve obtained a death certificate, you need to find the will of the person who died.

If you’re the executor, you should have been told where the will is kept to make it easy to find. However, if that’s not the case, there are a number of places you can look, including:

  • Their safe

  • Their office or study

  • Filing cabinets

  • Other drawers around the house

If you still can’t find their will, you could try contacting the company they made it with to try and get hold of a copy. Alternatively, you can check if their will was deposited with the Principal Registry of the Family Division or Certainty – a National Will Register that helps people track down wills for a fee.

3. Arrange the funeral

After obtaining a death certificate and checking the will for specific funeral wishes, you’re free to start arranging a funeral for your loved one. This usually takes place within two weeks of someone’s death.

Many people choose to leave funeral wishes in their will, so it’s worth reading the will before putting any plans in place. This can really help to give you the confidence that you’re giving your loved one a fitting send-off.

If you’re interested in arranging a cremation, our simple cremation service may be right for you. If you would prefer something more traditional or are still weighing up your options, you can find out more about how to arrange a funeral here.

4. Notify people of the death

One of the biggest duties of an executor is to protect the value of the estate. The first part of this is visiting any property owned by the person who died to close the windows, lock the doors and make sure it’s secure.

The next step is to notify people and organisations about your loved one’s death. This will allow them to freeze accounts and cancel direct debits to prevent any further payments being taken from the estate.

Here’s a list of people and organisations you should try to contact within a few weeks of your loved one’s death:

  • Employer

  • Mortgage provider, landlord, house association or council housing office

  • Insurance providers (home and life insurance are most common)

  • Gas and electricity provider

  • Water provider

  • TV and internet provider

  • Bereavement Register (this is to stop junk mail being sent)

  • Store card providers

  • Banks

  • Building societies

  • Pension providers

  • Stocks and shares companies

  • Premium bonds providers

  • Magazine subscriptions

  • GP

  • Dentist

  • Optician

  • Social services or carers

For government department’s like the Passport Office, DVLA and HMRC, you can use the government’s Tell Us Once service here.

5. Value the estate

Once the funeral has been arranged and your loved one’s assets have been secured, the next step is to value the estate and find out if you need probate.

To value the estate, you first need to collect up your loved one’s financial records. Some people choose to include an inventory of their assets as part of their will, which can really help to speed up this process.

Once you’ve tracked down their assets, you’ll need to calculate the value of the following:

  • Property

  • Bank accounts

  • Building society accounts

  • Debts

  • Tax owed

  • Stocks and shares

  • Pensions

  • Life insurance policies

  • Premium bonds

If your loved one didn’t own any property and the total value of the estate is less than £10,000, you probably won’t need to apply for probate.

If you don’t have time to value the estate, or if you feel like the estate is too complex to deal with yourself, you may be interested in our Complete Probate service. This also covers steps six and seven in this checklist. Please give us a call on 020 3695 2090 to find out more.

6. Apply for probate

If you’re happy to take on the estate admin yourself, the next step will be to apply for probate.

To apply for probate, the executor needs to submit an application to the probate registry by filling out a 23-page form called PA1P. You’ll also need to fill out an additional document to declare whether any inheritance tax is due. If you choose to do this yourself, the probate registry fee will be £215.

If you would prefer to have one of our probate specialists handle this for you, please give us a call on 020 3695 2090. Our fee is just £595 for simple estates or £1,045 for complex cases, and you can handle everything from the comfort of your own home.

Once your application has been submitted and approved by the probate registry, your grant of probate will be sent out to you in the post.

7. Sort out the estate and pay beneficiaries

Once you’ve received your grant of probate, you’ll have the legal authority to administer your loved one’s estate. This includes things like:

  • Selling or transferring property

  • Claiming on life insurance policies

  • Paying off debts and taxes

  • Collecting assets in one place

  • Closing accounts

You’ll then be able to distribute assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the will.

Other common questions about being an executor

What power does an executor of a will have?

An executor has the power to deal with someone’s estate and ensure that the person’s wishes are followed.

Some solicitors and will writers grant additional powers to executors, also known as general provisions, but these may differ depending on who created the will. Many professionals use a standard set of provisions approved by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).

What is an executor of a will entitled to?

An executor of a will is entitled to claim back any costs for arranging the funeral, applying for probate and dealing with the estate.

In many cases, executors are also named as beneficiaries in the will, which means they inherit a share of the estate. This is because many people choose to name their children as executors of their will. However, it’s important to understand that executors aren’t automatically entitled to part of the estate, they also need to be listed as beneficiaries.

How do you find out if you’re the executor of a will?

You can find out if you’re the executor of a will by getting a copy of the will. This will include names of the people or professionals who were appointed as executors.

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