If you have been appointed as an Executor you will be named as such in the Will of the deceased.
Many people appoint their friends or relatives to be their Executors without giving any thought to the legal responsibility involved. But if you get it wrong you may be liable to pay back large sums of money by way of taxes or overpaid state benefits that the deceased received.
There is a lot to attend to and you may find the situation overwhelming.
I was an Executor in the estate of one of my close relatives. I have over thirty years of experience as a Wills and Probate Solicitor and knew exactly how to handle the estate. But the task quickly became impossible to manage. I couldn’t face going to the house, the place of a lifetime of memories. And so I held up progress. In the meantime the other beneficiaries started to complain. I therefore asked one of my colleagues to take over the case and they moved the matter forward swiftly.
You may have been appointed as an Executor when you were much younger.
If you agreed to be an Executor many years ago you may now realise that you simply can’t cope with the physical demands of sorting out an empty house. It can be a huge and time consuming process. Even if the deceased was a very organised person it can still take up to ten hours just to sort through all the paperwork. Every item needs to be checked, you do not wish to throw out what you feel are very old Life Assurance policies held in the names of the deceased’s parents. They could be worth a fortune. Or what about the slip of paper that we would recognise as a receipt for monies paid into an old savings policy that is still in existence.
You won’t have to worry about finding money to pay for a funeral.
The first thing that I do if I am managing an estate is to look for a pre paid funeral plan. If I drafted the Will then I will have asked about this at the time. It is likely that if there is such a policy in existence I will have a copy of it stored with the original will. I also ask my clients to advise their friends or relatives that such a policy exists. If I haven’t drafted the will then I need to go to the deceased’s empty property and look for one quickly.
Could you face going into the deceased’s empty home within days of their death to start looking for a funeral plan? Often I am the first person to go into a house after the death in the property itself. Sometimes what I find is not very pleasant. Perhaps you would be better off remembering your relative or friend in happier times.
If you appoint a funeral director without checking first to see if there is a pre paid funeral plan then you may be wasting money belong to the estate and ultimately the beneficiaries.
If there isn’t a funeral plan it is still highly likely that you can avoid the stress of determining who will pay for the funeral. In many cases executors are distant relatives. They may not wish to find the money for a funeral only to have to wait a long period of time to recover this.
If I am involved in Administering an estate then I will ask to see proof that there is sufficient money available to cover funeral costs in any of the deceased’s bank accounts. I will then contact a funeral director and advise that I will pay them from one of the bank accounts. As a solicitor, I am able to access an account in order to pay the funeral director prior to the Grant of Probate. This can actually take up to a year to obtain.