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How we can help Personal Representatives

View profile for Claire Holland
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Administering an estate can be a daunting task.  Whilst there is no requirement to enlist the help of a solicitor, there are many reasons why it may be best to do so.  Our team has many years’ experience and can help you to avoid common traps and pitfalls and ensure that the administration runs smoothly.

A Personal Representative includes someone who is named as an executor in a Will, or someone who acts as administrator in an ‘intestacy’ (where there was no valid Will).

What are my responsibilities as Personal Representative?

Your responsibilities as Personal Representative are numerous, extensive, and, importantly, carry personal liability. 

For example, if you distribute the estate without properly ensuring that there are no outstanding valid claims by disappointed potential beneficiaries or creditors, you may ultimately end up personally liable for such claims.  You are also personally liable to the beneficiaries of the estate in terms of ensuring that all assets are investigated and properly gathered in and distributing the estate in accordance with the Will and in a timely manner.   

Simply being named as an executor in a Will does not give rise to personal responsibility and you can choose to renounce your position before you take out a Grant of Representation.   However, even prior to taking out a Grant, ‘intermeddling’ – taking certain action in the estate administration - can commence liability. 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of your potential responsibilities as personal representative:

  • Arrange the funeral;
  • Produce an IHT account to HMRC and either pay any tax or state that none is due, including calculating the availability of any nil rate band or residence nil rate band;
  • Obtain a Grant of Representation;
  • Collect in the estate of the deceased and administer it according to law and the terms of the Will;
  • Pay any debts;
  • Keep assets safe and secure if they will not be sold or distributed for some time;
  • Keep estate accounts and have these available for viewing by authorised people / institutions.

Initial assistance

It is a good idea to seek assistance if you know or have reason to believe you have been appointed as executor for someone who has died.  If you have the Will and a copy of the death certificate, we can discuss matters with you to help set you off in the right direction.  

A Will may appear straightforward on its surface but there can be many complicating factors which may not be immediately apparent.  This is why it is always a good idea to look through the Will with a solicitor.  For example, trusts of any kind are not always immediately obvious, and if a trust exists in a Will we definitely recommend that you seek professional assistance, as there are many additional responsibilities to acting as a Trustee. 

We can talk you through the Will and its implications and assist you to set up any trust arrangement at the outset.

If the deceased has died without leaving a Will – or a Will cannot be found - you should seek advice as there are laws governing who is entitled to act as administrator and who is entitled to benefit from the estate.

Further assistance with the estate administration

If you like, we can help you throughout the administration process either through to the end, or perhaps just for the initial process of obtaining the Grant. 

There is a relatively short amount of time within which any Inheritance Tax must be paid to HM Revenue and Customs without attracting interest or penalties.  This means that you must act fairly quickly to start gathering information.  Depending on the complexity of the estate, filling in the appropriate forms can be a time-consuming process.  We can help you by writing to all of the financial institutions with whom the deceased held accounts and obtaining date of death valuations.  We can assess which forms and schedules need to be submitted and complete them for you.  By doing this we can help ensure that you obtain any relief from Inheritance Tax that the estate is entitled to, as well as correctly claiming all available exemptions and nil rate bands.

It is easy during an estate administration for things to ‘drift’ and for deadlines to loom quickly.  We can help by moving things along which is helpful if you are trying to juggle the estate administration with other responsibilities. 

Once you have obtained the Grant, you have a responsibility to first pay any debts and then to distribute the estate in a timely manner (but not too quickly) to the beneficiaries.  There are steps you should take before distributing the estate and again these are things we can advise you on or assist you with.

You must be able to provide estate accounts on demand and must also have these approved by all beneficiaries before distributing the estate.  Again, this is something we can assist you with.  Depending on the size of the estate you may have to complete an income tax return.  If there is a property included, you may need to sell it or arrange for its transfer. 

What can complicate the administration of an estate?

Administering even a relatively simple estate can be time consuming and it can be hard to know what you need to do and when, so you are well advised to seek some assistance.   If there are complications, you may have a greater need for professional advice.  Such complications might include:

  • Beneficiaries who are in dispute;
  • An insolvent estate – where the debts outweigh the assets (this may not come to light straight away);
  • Estates involving properties, shareholdings, businesses;
  • (As stated above) Wills where part or all of the estate is left into a trust;
  • Estates with minor beneficiaries;
  • Estates where beneficiaries have died.

Please do not hesitate to contact our Private Client Team at ch@hughes-paddison.co.uk or on 01242 574244 if you would like to discuss any of these issues.