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What is an Executor?

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 18 Feb 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Executor Execute Will Deceased Probate

The process of writing and interpreting a will seems simple to begin with; surely it is just a case of deciding who should inherit your property, and then putting it in writing? Unfortunately, from the very beginning of the process, making a will involves a string of legal terms and often confusing jargon. One of the most fundamental of these terms (and, usefully, one of the simplest) is 'executor'. This describes the most important individual to be named in the will, and it is therefore important to understand exactly what the term means.

In its broadest sense, the legal and literal meanings of the word are much the same; the executor is simply one who executes, or carries out, a task. In the case of a will, the executor is the individual who is charged with carrying out the tasks outlined by the writer.

Complex Tasks

The directions given in the will may well be complicated and, as such, the executor may have many and varied tasks to carry out. The most important of these is likely to be the disbursement of the deceased individual's estate to the beneficiaries named in the will.

Before this can be done, however, the executor will also be required to arrange for payment of the deceased's remaining debts to be made, and to deal with outstanding claims from creditors. Furthermore, they will be required to calculate and pay tax which might be owed from the estate. Normally the largest such outlay will be inheritance tax, but there may be further unpaid sums which must be accounted for. Another key part of the job of executor is to seek out any other possible heirs, and to assess any claim they might have to part of the estate. Finally, they will be responsible for any other arrangements stipulated in the will, such as donations to charity.

Personal Representative

An executor can also be known as a personal representative; they legally represent the deceased's estate and, as such, assume various rights and responsibilities. In most cases the executor can be sued on behalf of the estate, making it a less than enticing post if the deceased's affairs are not entirely in order. It should also be noted that the executor automatically acquires the title to any property which falls within the estate. In this way, they act as the owner of any property to which a life tenant has a claim. The executor may not, of course, use these titles for their own benefit, unless this is explicitly provided for in the will.

The post of executor is a difficult one and, as such, it is sometimes the case that, upon the death of the writer of the will, the appointed executor no longer feels capable of discharging their duties. In these cases, or in cases of intestacy, an administrator may be appointed instead. This individual will take on the same responsibilities, but will have to apply for Letters of Administration in order to acquire legal authority.

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chammo71 - Your Question:
My aunt recently passed away and has an old friend as her executor. My uncle (her husband) has dementia and is now in a care home. In her will it stated her requests but that if my uncle survived her then after 30 days he was to be sole beneficiary.The executor wants to claim many of my aunts possessions and clear the house even though the 30 days had passed and my uncle is very much alive.Does the executor have any legal right to lay claim to any of my aunts possessions and state the house is to be cleared etc?Where do we stand with regards to protecting my uncles rights & welfare? As we want to ensure all of my aunts share of estate and possessions is safeguarded for the continued care of my uncle.

Our Response:
The Will should be clear on this. Have you spoken to a solicitor? Who has power of attorney over your uncle's finances if he has dementia?
TheWillExpert - 20-Feb-18 @ 3:22 PM
my dad left a will, leaving 6 parts 50% to step son who is also the executor ,not adopted 1 part each to 4 of the remaining step children and 1 part each for his biological twin daughters (me), he left his biological son out of the will completely , executor is asking for a signed letter saying disinherited son wont contest or make a claim (he hasn’t seen the will) he said the solicitor wants it to release the money, this has only been asked verbally from executor, the house is sold pending probate has he a right to ask my disinherited brother to send a letter stating he wont contest.
strongox - 18-Feb-18 @ 8:48 PM
My aunt recently passed away and has an old friend as her executor. My uncle (her husband) has dementia and is now in a care home. In her will it stated her requests but that if my uncle survived her then after 30 days he was to be sole beneficiary. The executor wants to claim many of my aunts possessions and clear the house even though the 30 days had passed and my uncle is very much alive. Does the executor have any legal right to lay claim to any of my aunts possessionsand state the house is to be cleared etc? Where do we stand with regards to protecting my uncles rights & welfare? As we want to ensure all of my aunts share of estate and possessions is safeguarded for the continued care of my uncle.
chammo71 - 16-Feb-18 @ 8:51 PM
fl - Your Question:
My mother died just over a year ago and left everything split between my older sister and I, with us both named as executors. I live in France and my sister suggested that it would be easier if I signed a form enabling her to obtain probate and administer the estate and act as sole executor. My mother's house was sold in September and my sister sent me a check with no other paperwork. I asked her for copies of the paperwork as I thought this was a legal requirement and I might be asked to prove where I had got the money (not a great deal of money). I finally received the paperwork today, and find that my sister has charged me a 15,000 fee for acting as executor, on a very simple estate. I understood that a solicitor or bank acting as executors would be paid their customary rates, but that a family member or friend would be reimbursed their share of expenses but would not receive a fee. Am I right? This seems an enormous amount of money.

Our Response:
It does seem a lot. You should ask her about it...perhaps she's had to take time off work, pay for items upfront etc? If you think she's defrauded the estate, you might have to consider legal action.
TheWillExpert - 15-Dec-17 @ 12:02 PM
My mother died just over a year ago and left everything split between my older sister and I, with us both named as executors. I live in France and my sister suggested that it would be easier if I signed a form enabling her to obtain probate and administer the estate and act as sole executor. My mother's house was sold in September and my sister sent me a check with no other paperwork. I asked her for copies of the paperwork as I thought this was a legal requirement and I might be asked to prove where I had got the money (not a great deal of money). I finally received the paperwork today, and find that my sister has charged me a 15,000 fee for acting as executor, on a very simple estate. I understood that a solicitor or bank acting as executors would be paid their customary rates, but that a family member or friend would be reimbursed their share of expenses but would not receive a fee. Am I right? This seems an enormous amount of money.
fl - 12-Dec-17 @ 4:31 PM
Another lady and I were named as executors for my aunt's will. The other lady signed the probate forms but now that I have them back from the Probate office and we both need to swear the oath in front if a solicitor, she is too ill to do anything. What can Ido as she is not going to get better and may well pass away?
Di - 15-Oct-17 @ 6:29 PM
Josh - Your Question:
My dad passed away in 2005 I was the only beneficiary my aunt was named executor of the estate and she sold the house and everything in side I got nothing from it is this legal can I pursue this to get some of my money from her

Our Response:
Assuming there were funds left after any debts were cleared etc, yes you should have received something. You will need to take legal action against your aunt if you can prove that you were the only beneficiary.
TheWillExpert - 29-Sep-17 @ 3:19 PM
My dad passed away in 2005 I was the only beneficiary my aunt was named executor of the estate and she sold the house and everything in side I got nothing from it is this legal can I pursue this to get some of my money from her
Josh - 28-Sep-17 @ 4:38 PM
Bruceieboy - Your Question:
My aunt has left me her house I am her only blood niece, in her will but I am not the executor that is her nephew. Will he clear her house before I get it or do I have any rights to the contents? Would it be better if she made me executor rather than a nephew on her husbands side

Our Response:
Check the details of the Will to see if your aunt specified who received the possessions. If you want to question anything the executor does, you can.
TheWillExpert - 25-Jul-17 @ 2:42 PM
My aunt has left me her house I am her only blood niece,in her will but I am not the executor that is her nephew.Will he clear her house before I get it or do I have any rights to the contents? Would it be better if she made me executor rather than a nephew on her husbands side
Bruceieboy - 19-Jul-17 @ 1:59 PM
karen - Your Question:
Hi.my 2nd aunt dieds nearly 20yrs ago and we have just found out form another Aunt that when she died she made my Uncle (my brothers brother) executor of her will.her estate was estimated at 300,000. The Aunt alive got 5000 the 2 Nieces received £1000 each and there was no-one out of our family left. Me & my Sister now believe we should of received more. I know some time has lapsed but is there anything we can do about it?

Our Response:
If you feel the Will has been administered fraudulently there is no time limit. You will need to seek professional legal advice to pursue this.
TheWillExpert - 4-Jul-17 @ 11:35 AM
Hi.my 2nd aunt dieds nearly 20yrs ago and we have just found out form another Aunt that when she died she made my Uncle (my brothers brother) executor of her will...her estate was estimated at 300,000. The Aunt alive got 5000 the 2 Nieces received £1000 each and there was no-one out of our family left . Me & my Sister now believe we should of received more. I know some time has lapsed but is there anything we can do about it?
karen - 3-Jul-17 @ 12:10 PM
Lou - Your Question:
My dad passed away and I got told that two of my sisters have my dad's will and neither of them will tell me if I am in the will or not I keep asking but get no reply please help.

Our Response:
If a Will exists, the named executor has to contact all the beneficiaries and send them a copy of the Will. If you are concerned, a probate solicitor should be able to help you.
TheWillExpert - 26-Jun-17 @ 11:51 AM
My dad passed away and I got told that two of my sisters have my dad's will and neither of them will tell me if I am in the will or not I keep asking but get no reply please help .
Lou - 23-Jun-17 @ 12:56 PM
My dad left money to my sister but she has passed away before I can get probate sorted. Where does her money go now. She was married and had a daughter. I have no contact with her husband and daughter.
Lilly - 11-Jun-17 @ 6:44 PM
GG - Your Question:
I am an executor of a will for an old spinster lady. All her estate has been left to her friend. I believe she may have a brother and sister who she has not seen for 10's of years. There is no record of there name and address in the house. Do I need to find them or just follow the instructions in the will?

Our Response:
If she has left a Will, your job as an executor is to carry out her wishes as described in that Will.
TheWillExpert - 30-May-17 @ 2:07 PM
I am an executor of a will for an old spinster lady.All her estate has been left to her friend. I believe she may have a brother and sister who she has not seen for 10's of years.There is no record of there name and address in the house. Do I need to find them or just follow the instructions in the will?
GG - 28-May-17 @ 8:31 AM
My brother and I were left equal shares o f my mothers house we are executer s of the will but my mother put a letter with the will that I should have first chance of the house if I bye him out but he won'tsell me his share and says he wants the house this against mams wishes what can I do.
Gc - 29-Apr-17 @ 11:43 AM
my mum left me a house that worth 60,000 and 4,000 in the bank will i have pay tax on thisand she given me 4,000 just befor she died to buy a car
maz - 30-Mar-16 @ 2:33 PM
my grandma made a willwhen i was 5yrs old and says her house had to be sold and put in trust till i was 25 but i am 27 and she just died and i get everything as they no one else but do the house have be sold as i over 25 now as i thinking of doing it up
paul - 30-Mar-16 @ 2:13 PM
Can an executor legally obtain details of a deceased's joint bank a/c which was held by her & a beneficiary but which was closed PRIOR to her death? Also can this executor carry out ANY actions as an executor if he has not even applied for probate?
tony - 19-Mar-16 @ 3:07 PM
My aunt passed away and a non family member states that everything was left to her and she is executor. How can we see a copy of the will if she will not produce one.
Estate - 17-Mar-16 @ 2:44 PM
Tallulah - Your Question:
My husband passed away last year leaving a will stipulating the properties that he owed were left to his children and I was to get the residue of the estate. Probate has been granted and IHT paid. The problem now is my stepchildren who were also named executors in the will are the delaying the process of this, for no apparent reason, the solicitor who is also executor insists that she is trying her best to resolve the issue but one of the executors are not responding to signing the that are required, What should I do to resolve this issue.

Our Response:
This is really for your solicitor to assist with. As a beneficiary you can request a copy of the accounts etc, so we suggest you do this for now. That should at least give you a clear picture of what's happening.
TheWillExpert - 7-Mar-16 @ 2:27 PM
I am the sole executor and beneficiaries of my late sons estate. I have on the recommendation of my solicitor Paid certain costs Funeral cost, Hire purchase cost of a vehicle , Accountants fees, A total paymentof £ 12,500,Because the estate is based on sale of a Business and a House, and is proving difficult to sell. My solicitor has told me that I cannot Claim any part of my £ 12,500 outlay, until all liabilities have paid ie- Inheritance Tax, And deptsIs this correct,Bert.
Bert - 7-Mar-16 @ 11:38 AM
My husband passed away last year leaving a will stipulating the properties that he owed were left to his children and I was to get the residue of the estate. Probate has been granted and IHT paid. The problem now is my stepchildren who were also named executors in the will are the delaying the process of this, for no apparent reason, the solicitor who is also executor insists that she is trying her best to resolve the issue but one of the executors are not responding to signing the that are required, What should I do to resolve this issue.
Tallulah - 4-Mar-16 @ 4:07 PM
L - Your Question:
My good friend left me executor to his and his wifes wills they made back to back wills. after his death the wifes half sisters husband has changed her will and cut me out of everything my friend left me. is there anything I can do to claim what he wanted me to have ?

Our Response:
Did the wife consent to the changes? If you think she has been coerced into changing her Will or someone has changed it fraudulently you should seek legal advice. Here is some information on challenging a Will.
TheWillExpert - 4-Feb-16 @ 12:55 PM
my good friend left me executor to his and his wifes wills they made back to back wills . after his death the wifes half sisters husband has changed her will and cut me out of everything my friend left me . is there anything I can do to claim what he wanted me to have ?
L - 3-Feb-16 @ 12:18 PM
My mother's partner passed away living a will which his sons were made executors. It was stated in the will that my mother was a beneficiary and was told she would receive notification once everything had been sorted. To date nothing has been passed to my mother nor have the executors of the will made contact. Please advise how this should be rectified.
jh2013 - 14-Jan-16 @ 2:33 PM
my mothers will states that all her jewelry at time of her death must be left to her daughter 'me' My brother as executorposted me the Jewelry and most of it isn't there nothing of value anyway I bought all my mothers jewelry for her I was ill in hospital when my mother died and during her funeral My brother states that all the jewelry that was left was sent to me and she must have given the rest away before she died what can I do?
mully - 8-Jan-16 @ 12:25 PM
I am curious regarding a will which I was told verbally that I would be included and her next door neighbour in it, as we were the ones helping her. The lady who died was 95 with no close family that she liked. she told me a few years previously that she had a solicitor to the house to make her will and she wanted a copy of my address. Yet I've contacted the solicitor who is also the excecutor and have been told very abruptly thatI'm not included, but I deeply believe that I would have been left something. I have requested a copy of her will from Gov UK to try to find out more. Any advice would be great as I am suspicious regarding the solicitor being excecutor.
Suz - 29-Dec-15 @ 7:13 PM
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