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What do executors do

Whether you’re an executor for someone’s estate, or you’re looking to choose executors for your own will, it can seem complicated and confusing.


What is an executor?

An executor is a person named in a will who sorts out the deceased person’s estate


How do I choose executors for my will?

When you make a will, you need to choose your executor(s). Being an executor can involve a lot of work and responsibility, so think carefully about who you choose. Explain what’s involved and check that they’re willing to act on your behalf.

Who should I choose to be an executor?

It could be a friend or family member. They don’t have to be related to you but it should be someone that you feel you can trust and who is willing to take on the responsibility of the role.The people you choose can inherit something from your will.

You may wish to point them towards How to be an executor to read more about the role.

Can I have more than one executor?

It’s a good idea to choose at least two executors, so they can share the responsibility and also in case one of them dies before you.

What if I don’t have anyone who can be an executor?

If you don’t have anyone that you feel would be suitable, or your family and friends don’t want to take on the role, you could appoint a professional executor, such as a solicitor or an accountant. This can be especially useful if your estate is particularly large or complicated. A professional executor will charge for their services and this will be paid for out of your estate.


I’m an executor – what do I do?

If you’re the executor of the estate you’ll have a number of responsibilities, such as:

  • applying for probate
  • valuing the estate
  • ensuring inheritance tax is paid
  • distributing the estate according to the will.

You can claim expenses from the estate for this work.


How do I apply for probate?

A grant of probate gives you the legal right to deal with someone’s estate.

Step one:

Check whether a grant of probate is needed – you may not need one for a small estate (historically less than £5,000 but in practice sometimes more in England and Wales). In this case you need to write to the bank, building society or whoever is holding the money, and ask whether they will make a payment to you without receiving a grant of probate.

Step two:

To apply for probate, complete form PA1 and the relevant Inheritance Tax (IHT) form.

Call HMRC on 0300 123 1072 for advice on probate and Inheritance Tax and help with completing forms.

Step three:

Send the forms to the local probate registry along with:

  • an official copy of the death certificate
  • the original will and three copies of it
  • a cheque for the application fee of £215

Step four:

When you receive a grant of probate or confirmation, make several copies. Send an office copy (as issued by the Probate Registry) with instructions to asset holders. 


How do I value the estate?

If you are the executor, you will need to value the estate of the deceased person.

Start with everything that they owned at the time of their death. This includes property, possessions and money, less everything they owed, such as mortgage, loans and credit card bills. For assets such as property or land, you should get a professional valuation. HMRC recommends having items worth over £500 valued professionally.


How do I pay Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance Tax (IHT) may have to be paid on the estate if it is worth more than a certain amount. Most estates are below the threshold - currently £325,000 – and don’t need to pay any IHT.

If there could be IHT to pay, get a professional valuation on high-value items such as a house or stock market investments, as you will need to give HMRC a detailed account.


How do I distribute the estate?

These are the main tasks for distributing the estate of a deceased person:

Step one:

If the will states a specific item is to be given (‘bequeathed’) to someone, you can do this before probate is granted, but make sure to value the items.

Step two:

When probate has been granted, draw up estate accounts for each beneficiary (what each person will get).

Step three:

Bankrupt beneficiaries may not be entitled to receive their inheritance, so search to see if beneficiaries are on the Individual Insolvency Register.

Step four:

Distribute the estate, making sure at least two trustees have been named for any gifts left to children under 18. You may want to wait at least six months after probate is granted before distributing the estate in case any claims are made against it.

Step five:

Give each beneficiary an R185 tax form (ask the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline for more information) for their share of estate income.

Step six

: Make sure you keep clear records of the work you’ve done so you can answer any questions about how you administered the estate.


What do I do next?

To find out more about your responsibilities as an executor, read our free guide and factsheet. It may be best to start by reading the guide, which gives you an introduction to being an executor and the duties you have, then read the factsheet if you need more detailed information.

  • How to be an executor
  • Dealing with an estate

Last updated: Oct 13 2017

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