Happy to be an Executor, but how and at what cost?

Posted on May 28, 2020

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Being an Executor of an individual’s Will can often be burdensome, it is time consuming work which requires an individual to act within the confines of the law. An executor has various duties to the beneficiaries when administering the estate which must be considered throughout and what an executor can and can’t do should be considered before carrying out any work. For practical reasons, an executor should also be aware that there may be a cost associated with being an executor.

Each estate will be administered per the individual’s Will and the below FAQs are by no means a one size fits all but have been prepared to assist an Executor in carrying out their duties. If you have any questions or require any further information or assistance please contact the Wills and Probate team at M&P Legal.

Someone has asked if I am willing to be an Executor for their Will, what does this mean?

Being an Executor for someone’s Will means that when that individual passes away you will be tasked with administering their estate. You may not be the sole executor of the estate and you should not be if there are any minors (under 18s) due to inherit. If you are joint executor with another individual you will be expected to work with the other appointed executor to administer the estate of the deceased (but you don’t have to – more on that below).

Administering the estate essentially requires you to obtain Probate (if necessary), and carry out the instructions per their Will which could be to go through the individual’s jewellery, personal items or valuable items and gift them under the Will or sell property, rent property, empty bank accounts to distribute funds. As Executor, you might also be required to plan and pay for the individual’s funeral (see below regarding costs) if no family members are able or willing to do so.

I have been appointed Executor on a Will, should I apply for Probate?

Some banks, building societies and investment companies will require a Grant of Probate in order to release the funds. You should check with the institution holding the funds whether Probate is required. As an Executor you are entitled to apply for Probate (whether jointly or individually provided the other Executor relinquishes their right to apply – see below) but you will require an Isle of Man address for service. If you don’t live on the Isle of Man, M&P Legal is happy to act as an address for service so please get in touch with our Wills and Probate team. An application for Probate does cost money dependent upon the value of the deceased’s estate, as Executor if you apply for Probate you will be expected to pay for this but you will be reimbursed by the estate – keeping a good record of accounts is a must.

Does an Executor have to pay for funeral costs?

As indicated above, if you are the sole executor on a Will and there is no family member coming forward to organise the funeral, you will probably have to get organising and that means you will need to pay for it too. If there is sufficient money within the Deceased’s bank account the bank may agree to advance funds for the cost of the funeral upon sight of the invoice. The funeral directors may also agree to wait for their payment until you have obtained a Grant of Probate, allowing you access to the Deceased’s money. If you have to travel, take time off work or pay upfront then all of this (provided well documented and reasonably incurred) could be recovered from the Estate.

I have been appointed an Executor but I don’t want to be one, do I have to?

The simple answer to this is no, you can reserve your rights, withdraw or otherwise remove yourself as an Executor.

I am one of two Executors, what does this mean?

Firstly, be sure to check that you are not an Executor only required in substitution. Often people draft their Will appointing an Executor then naming someone who would act as Executor if their first-named individual is not around or does not want to or cannot act as Executor. If you are only required in substitution and the Executor appointed is happy to carry on administering the estate, you don’t have to do anything.

If you are appointed an Executor with someone else then you should administer the estate together. In reality this means that you will need to agree all steps being taken together however, it’s worth noting that an Executor cannot just do as they please, they are bound to follow the instructions per the Will and they have duties codified in law. If you think that the Executor you are appointed alongside is flouting their role, it’s recommended to seek legal advice.

What costs can I claim as an Executor?

An Executor can only claim costs that have been reasonably incurred. For example, if you are a family member appointed Executor and you travel to the funeral, it’s not likely that you could recoup those costs as “costs of administering the estate” unless there are specific circumstances. As previously discussed, any funeral costs, cost of Probate applications as well as legal advice in relation to administering the estate will be costs that you can recover from the estate but you should keep a well-documented record of such costs (i.e. keep invoices etc.).

Can I be an Executor if a deceased did not leave a Will?

If the deceased did not leave a Will but you wish to assist in administering the estate you will need to apply for Letters of Administration in the same format as applying for a Grant of Probate. A maximum of 4 people can apply for Letters of Administration and it is only usually granted to beneficiaries of the estate (i.e. those who would likely inherit from the deceased per intestacy law).

Do I have to sell a deceased’s house if I am an Executor?

If the Will instructs you to sell the property then you most likely will have to sell the property however you should seek legal advice if the Will provides you with any Trustee Powers and how they apply. If the Will does not require you to sell the house you might not have to in certain scenarios for example where renting would be more profitable. If there is an outstanding mortgage on the property you will have to pay off the mortgage upon the death of the deceased and there is likely to be clauses regarding death in any mortgage agreement which will be binding (and likely result in you selling the Property).

Can I be held liable for the Deceased’s debt?

Not usually. It is the responsibility of the Executor to pay off the deceased’s debt. The debts would usually be paid off by the Executor from the assets of the deceased before the Executor distributes the estate to the beneficiaries. If an Executor distributes the estate before all debts are paid the creditor may be able to enforce the debt against the Executor.

Executors can protect themselves from such claims by placing statutory notices in two local papers. For more information please contact our Wills and Probate team.

Can I appoint a lawyer as an Executor?

Yes, advocates are often appointed to administer estates whether appointed by the deceased in the Will or whether an Executor seeks legal advice and decides that it would be best if an advocate carried on administering the estate and replaces the Executor.

This article does not constitute legal advice - for more information please contact the Wills and Probate team at M&P Legal (Isle of Man).


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