With the way Covid-19 has affected our daily lives you may be wondering what happens if you find yourself appointed as an executor of somebody’s Will.
The peculiar thing about Wills is that you may not know that you have been appointed as an executor until after the person’s death, as they are under no obligation to inform you in their lifetime.
The restrictions on everyday life may make such a role harder to carry out.
The first job may be to register the death, if this has not been done already. Helpfully, it is now possible to register the death over the phone instead of having a face to face meeting with a registrar. The same is true of organising a funeral. Your job is also to locate the latest Will which may involve looking through papers in the person’s property or contacting the person’s solicitor.
You can instruct a Private Client solicitor to administer the estate on your behalf. There is even more reason to do so in the current circumstances as solicitors are operating, as far as possible, like normal and will find it easier than you probably would given that you can no longer go into banks etc with a death certificate.
Probate solicitors often administer estates without meeting the executor, usually because the executor is not local to the office, but they are used to doing everything by phone, email and post. A video call can take place initially instead of the usual face to face meeting. When it comes to the actual administration of the estate this can continue much the same, again using phone, email and post, although liaising with various organisations is likely to take a little longer than it usually would.
Executors do not, however, have to take up their appointment, and there are two options available to them.
- The first is to renounce the appointment. This is an irrevocable decision where you would sign a deed and have no further involvement in administering the estate.
- The second is to have what is called ‘power reserved’. This means you would not act in the administration of the estate unless and until the acting executor is not able to continue. This is the better option, particularly where only one executor is left to act. If you do not act then the other named executors can act, or a substitute if you were named solely. If you were named solely and there is no substitute, then the beneficiaries of the estate have the ability to act.
It is worth bearing in mind that if you ‘intermeddle’ in an estate you can assume the role of executor and then not back out, as it is not possible to ‘retire’ as an executor. Making enquiries into the estate does not constitute intermeddling but as soon as you start to collect or pay funds that could be. Be in possession of all the facts, therefore, before you decide whether or not you wish to act.
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