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The Great Hunt: Help others if you've been an executor of a will

edited 28 March 2017 at 10:58AM in Deaths, Funerals & Probate
103 replies 26K views


  • I was one of the executors on my Mother's Will. Fortunately I had worked in Probate in a solicitor's office so knew the basics. She died within one year of my father. On her death three children shared the assets of her estate. When my father died we were able to get a Deed of Variation signed by my mother to enable us to share in the nil rate band level which reduced the amount of inheritance tax payable on her death. Charitable bequests also reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable. There is a booklet published by the DHSS called "What to do when Someone dies" which is useful. Also it is possible to notify people like the DHSS etc via the Funeral Director . It is also useful to have a Power of Attorney in place to put with the Will.
  • King_Drax_IKing_Drax_I Forumite
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    This might sound obvious, but in order for any of this forum thread to be of any use to those left behind when you die, if you haven't already done so then please Make A Will!!

    I am sure it's written elsewhere on the MSE forums, but the single best thing you can do for your loved ones is to make a Will. You cannot assume that all your possessions will go to your family, or even if they do, there might be arguments and what-have-you at what is already an emotionally-loaded and difficult time. You want to be sure that your children are properly looked after by the people of your choice; people who you know will look after them well.

    It doesn't take long. All you need to do is to jot down what you want to go to whom, who you want to be your executor(s) (Ask them first), and who you want to be your children's guardians (Ask them, and your children, too!). And then shop around for someone to do it for you. Maybe your Union does a cheap Wills service; maybe your employer does. I've never used a DIY Will kit, so I can't say for sure, but I would say that anything is better than nothing.

    And finally, make sure it is correctly witnessed. You need two witnesses, both of whom must be present while you sign your Will. The witnesses then sign it. And that's it - done!

    Make sure that your executors know where the Will is kept - in your safe, filing cabinet, a box under the bed - whatever. And keep a scanned copy in a secure folder on your computer - just in case.

    But make a Will. Go on, do it! :)
  • Voyager2002Voyager2002 Forumite
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    In many cases it is advisable to use a solicitor, but there is no need to 'instruct' the first one you encounter. Fees vary enormously: in the Will that I am handling at the moment, quotes varied from under £3,000 to almost £20,000!
  • My experience was in Scotland where the required document is called Confirmation, rather than Probate.

    It is possible to administer everything yourself but be prepared to be patient as it can take some time to understand and complete the required documentation, especially IHT400 if it is required.

    As the deceases died intestate (left no will), the first step was to approach the relevant Sheriff court to have an executor appointed.

    Once appointed, the executor can lodge completed forms C1 & C5 with the Sheriff Court to apply for confirmation. If the estate has a value of less than £36,000, they will assist you but are prevented from doing so for larger estates.

    If, when completing the above forms you find you need to also fill in IHT400 this must be done and submitted to the Revenue before going to the Court. Only once the Revenue return the documentation can you apply to the Sheriff for Confirmation.

    As others have said, some financial institutions almost throw the monies at you whilst others really drag out the process. Having said that, I had managed to ingather all the funds before Confirmation was forthcoming.
  • Yorkshireman99Yorkshireman99 Forumite
    5.5K Posts
    The copies of the will from the Probate Office with their imprint are already certified copies. It is outrageous for anyone to ask the estate to pay extra money for a certified copy. Unfortunately financial institutions have executors over a barrel on this. Extra copies ordered with the original probate application cost little. I suggest executors ask for ten copies. I would echo your advice of being open with your executor(s) before you make your will and with your heirs if possible. Having read about many family disputes on this forum I feel quite lucky not to have any blood relatives left to cause the beneficiaries any problem.
  • strowgerstrowger Forumite
    12 Posts
    My advice is also MAKE A WILL.

    I dealt with an intestate mess left by the sudden death of a family member.

    Make a will, and to nag your nearest and dearest to make wills as well. It took more than a year and £10k to sort out the mess, and there was nothing special about the situation - it could be you / your children / husband / wife, tomorrow. A little attention to a will could save an enormous amount of misery.

    If you would leave a lot of money (eg you have significant home equity, or a life insurance policy) and have children, you really do need a good think, and a will. You almost certainly don't want, for example, your teenage children to suddenly receive lots of money if you die.
  • slimmer1slimmer1 Forumite
    18 Posts
    Just finished sorting out my mother-in-law's estate. Quite easy if you're comfortable with documentation. I've found:
    - It really helps if you get AUTHORISED copies of both the death certificate (best obtained at the point of registration) and of the will ( we got 5 of each - and needed them all. Most establishments return them but if you have more, you don't have to wait for all that and can send off to all establishments at the same time). You may well have to establish proof of identity by production of passport, utility bills, photo driving license; any copies will also need authentication just like a passport application.
    - Probate only needed if property or land involved, large sums of money OR if the banks you're involved with insist!! (depends on cash total, usually £20K). My understanding is this is to ensure identity of executors is established and ownership of estate is also established AND validity of the will is established.
    - Executors don't have to follow the will!!!!! You can vary it providing it remains within the broad wishes of the deceased BUT agrement of all parties is such a good idea.
    - One obstacle is as soon as there is a death, their bank account is frozen so you need some account to handle the estate cash. Banks no longer allow 'executors accounts' so, again with the agreement of all interested parties you can just open another account - best in at least one (or all) executors names. BEWARE, some establishments require destination accounts for payouts to be at least 6 months old!!
    - Funeral expenses can be paid by the deceased bank directly to the funeral directors by BACS upon presentation of the bill - it may take a little while.
    - These barriers are ensure legacies only go to the intended, prevent future challenges, establish an audit trail for all money and assets.
    Hope this helps.

    Then there is probate - I didn't.
  • I did the donkeywork on behalf of my mother in administering my fathers will in 2003 and later administered my mothers will in 2007. This was done with the aid of a Which? guide and my own fairly simple spreadsheet. My father had kept track of their investments on a spreadsheet which was a good start.
    I used my spreadsheet to keep track of addresses, dates of correspondence, account numbers and valuations. The valuations were there for filling probate forms and checking that everything was received.
    Make sure that you get sufficient death certificates and copies of probate to send 1 to each financial institution.
    It was only by administering my fathers estate that I really understood what probate was about. That is to say probate essentially says to financial institutions that you are entitled to collect this money.
    I did not find the process difficult despite both parents having more than 20 different accounts. It just took time.
    I think that the main thing missing from the guide that I read was draft letters showing the full information likely to be required by the various institutions. I would also have liked more guidance on drawing up the accounts prior to distribution to the deceased's children and grandchildren.
  • MojisolaMojisola Forumite
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    slimmer1 wrote: »
    - Executors don't have to follow the will!!!!! You can vary it providing it remains within the broad wishes of the deceased BUT agrement of all parties is such a good idea.

    - One obstacle is as soon as there is a death, their bank account is frozen so you need some account to handle the estate cash. Banks no longer allow 'executors accounts' so, again with the agreement of all interested parties you can just open another account - best in at least one (or all) executors names.

    Executors do have to follow the will. A deed of variation can be made if all the affected beneficiaries agree to it.

    Which banks wouldn't let you open an executors' account? It's not a good idea to have the estate money in an individual's name.
  • TechnosaurusTechnosaurus Forumite
    46 Posts
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    All great advice so far. Whilst all are useful tips, GET MULTIPLE DEATH CERTIFICATES is probably the best bit of advice going. And be organised.

    Only thing I would add that hasn't been mentioned is to ring the deceased's tax office, just to check. We got £600 back from one phonecall for my Mum's overpaid income tax - I wouldn't have phoned on her "behalf" unless a friend of mine hadn't just received a rebate.

    Same also applies for pension providers - there may be the odd couple of hundred quid here and there that you just didn't think of at the time when cancelling bank accounts etc. Mum had 3 pensions, Dad had 2 - only one wrote to us to advise that we were owed money!
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