Executors & Trustees
Choose who you trust to manage your estate
Probate (or Estate administration) is the process of sorting out the legal & tax affairs
You are legally responsible and personally liable, it is time consuming & stressful
You can either tackle it head-on or engage a professional to do it for you
The executors appointed in your Will are responsible for the administrative work of gathering in your assets, paying any liabilities and then distributing the balance to your chosen beneficiaries. In most Wills the executors will also become the trustees of any funds that have to be managed for any length of time, e.g. going to children aged under 18 years.
Executors have a difficult and time consuming job to do despite most people thinking that it’s an honour to be asked! The role carries some legal liability so it is worth you reading on to understand a little more about it.
If you are close to the person who has just passed away, you could find the role distressing to do, not be able to focus properly on the task and depending what is in the Will you could be accused of making unpopular decisions for beneficiaries. Sharing the work might make things easier for you and beware if the estate is large or complicated because you might be better off appointing a professional from the start. Be warned though, most High Street solicitors and banks will charge between 3-5% of the value of the estate, whereas our typical charge comes under 2% so if you think you may need help, please get in touch. We can provide a fixed price quote upfront, before any work is done.
You will need to arrange for the care of any children and pets, then obtain the formal notice indicating the cause of death and register it at the local Registry in order to get a death certificate. Ensure any last wishes such as organ/body donations are carried out and arrange the funeral. You are responsible for the body and the estate. Obtain the last Will (if there is one) and make contact with the named beneficiaries. Value all the assets and liabilities ‘as at the date of death’ and declare this to HMRC on an Inheritance Tax return within 12 months of the death. They will write back to you so that you can then apply for the grant of probate. You will have to do a final tax return for the deceased, and for the estate period, and when there are no more liabilities to pay out, distribute the rest according to the instructions in the Will. You then need to complete a full set of accounts for the beneficiaries and resubmission to HMRC. Solicitors typically talk of the ‘probate year’ however most estates do take longer.
Trustees have an important role within a trust since they will manage the trust assets for the beneficiaries (chosen by the Settlor, the person to set up the trust) and this can be done either during the Settlor’s lifetime or on death through a Will. Any action you carry out as a trustee must be authorised by the terms of the trust and the law that governs trusts.
It is always a good idea to consider appointing a professional trustee to ensure that a totally unbiased approach is taken when dealing with the deceased’s assets according to the wishes laid down. A professional trustee can be a person or a trust corporation, either way there will be charges for the advice and expertise they bring whether it is in terms of tax legislation or simply optimising trust efficiency for the beneficiaries.
Trustees powers and duties are very tightly detailed by legislation and will include familiarising themselves with the purpose of the trust, taking account of the Settlor’s wishes and ensuring fairness between beneficiaries, exercising reasonable skill and care when investing the ‘trust fund’ appropriately, acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries, take proper advice where necessary, so you can see that a good deal of this would fall outside the scope of ordinary lay trustees who are unlikely to carry Professional Indemnity Insurance.
If you would like our help with any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Top 10 reasons to get a Will
- You decide how your estate will be distributed
- You decide who will take care of your minor children
- Helps to avoid a lengthy probate process
- Minimise estate taxes
- You decide who will wind up the affairs of you estate
- You can disinherit individuals who would otherwise stand to inherit
- Make gifts and donations to friends, family & charity
- Avoid greater legal challenges
- Because you can change your mind if life circumstances change
- Because tomorrow is not promised
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