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What are the duties of an Executor of a Will?

Posted by Nigel Merchant | 25-Apr-2024 15:30:00

In the UK, the Executor of a Will is responsible for managing the estate of a deceased person, paying any debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets according to the terms of the Will. The specific duties of an Executor may include: 

  • Obtaining a Grant of Representation: This is a legal document that confirms the Executor's authority to manage the deceased person's estate. 
  • Gathering and securing the deceased person's assets: This includes finding, identifying, and protecting the deceased person's property. 
  • Paying debts and taxes: The Executor is responsible for paying off the deceased person's debts and any taxes owed, such as Inheritance Tax. 
  • Distributing the remaining assets: The Executor must distribute the assets according to the terms of the Will, which may include selling property or transferring assets to beneficiaries. 
  • Keeping records: The Executor must keep accurate records of all transactions and decisions made in the estate administration process. 
  • Communicating with beneficiaries: The Executor should keep the beneficiaries informed of the administration of the estate and any decisions made. 

It is important to note that Executors have a financial and legal duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries and must act with care, skill, and impartiality. 


What does an Executor do? 

An Executor is a person named in a Will by the Testator (the person whose Will it is). They are responsible for carrying out the wishes set out in the Will when the Testator passes away. It is best practice to name more than one, as this ensures that there is someone to deal with the estate even if an Executor passes away. Up to four people can be named as Executors in a Will. However, there is a legal framework – known as the chain of representation – that ensures the estate will be distributed properly if an Executor dies before the process is complete. 

Executors are sometimes referred to as Personal Representatives. This is an umbrella term that also includes the Administrator role; an Administrator acts on behalf of an estate when there is no Will left behind. They will be appointed according to the rules of intestacy. 

Personal Representatives are responsible for probate (if required) and estate administration, meaning that they need to deal with all of the deceased’s assets, liabilities, debts, and taxes before distributing the estate to the beneficiaries. 


What is the first thing an Executor should do when someone passes away? 

The first thing an Executor of a Will should do is establish the deceased person's assets and liabilities. This includes finding and securing the deceased person's property and accounts, as well as determining any outstanding debts or taxes that need to be paid. 

The Executor should also obtain a copy of the Will, if one exists, and determine who the beneficiaries are. After this, the Executor should obtain a Grant of Probate, if necessary, to confirm their authority to manage the estate. 


What is a Grant of Representation? 

A Grant of Representation is a legal document issued by the Probate Registry in England and Wales, which gives the person named in the Grant the authority to administer a deceased person's estate. A Grant is required when the deceased person owned assets in their sole name and the assets cannot be transferred to the beneficiaries without it. 

Please note that in Scotland, the process differs in that a Confirmation document is required. This should be obtained from a Sheriff's court in order to proceed. 

In England and Wales, the two most common types of Grants are a Grant of Probate and a Grant of Letters of Administration. A Grant of Probate is given when the deceased had a valid Will, while a Grant of Letters of Administration is issued when the deceased passed away without a valid Will, also known as dying intestate. 


Click here to view our detailed probate page, which answers the most frequently asked questions.


How long does the Grant of Representation process take? 

The time it takes to receive a Grant of Representation can be influenced by several factors. These include the complexity of the estate, the number of beneficiaries, and the speed of submitting the required forms and documents to the Probate Registry. As a result, the duration for receiving the Grant may vary. 

Typically, the process of getting a Grant of Representation takes around sixteen weeks. However, it may take longer if there are issues that need to be resolved, such as a contested Will (also known as contentious probate) or multiple beneficiaries, these can extend the process for several months. Additionally, backlogs at HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) can also result in a delay in obtaining the Grant. 

To free up your time for the important things, you can instruct a professional probate provider to apply for a Grant on your behalf. Here at Kings Court Trust we have a variety of estate solutions, including our Grant only probate service, which is priced at £995 plus VAT and the probate fee. 


Can the Executor of a Will be a beneficiary? 

This is a frequently asked question by Executors. Yes, the Executor of a Will can also be a beneficiary. 

It is common for individuals to name a close family member or friend as both the Executor and a beneficiary when drafting their Will. However, it is important for the Executor to maintain impartiality and act in the best interests of all beneficiaries, regardless of whether they will personally benefit from the estate. 

If there is any concern about a conflict of interest, it may be better to name a neutral party as the Executor before the estate administration process begins. 


Click here to read our blog on the difference between probate and estate administration.


How long does an Executor have to settle an estate in the UK? 

There is no specific time limit for settling an estate in the UK. The length of time it takes to settle an estate can depend on a variety of factors, such as the complexity of the estate, the availability of assets, and the need to resolve any disputes or legal issues. 

On average, it can take several months to a few years to fully settle an estate, but the process can be quicker or slower depending on the circumstances. It is important for the Executor to act efficiently and diligently in settling the estate, while also ensuring that they comply with all legal and financial obligations. 


How much do Solicitors charge to complete the estate administration process? 

The cost of using a probate Solicitor to complete the estate administration process can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the estate, as well as the level of service provided by the Solicitor. 

Pricing can also vary based on their charging methods; many local Solicitors charge by percentage which can be between 1% - 5% of the value of the estate; this can result in a very large fee once the estate administration process is complete. However, some probate providers charge a fixed fee for estate administration, while others charge an hourly rate. 

On average, Solicitors in the UK charge between £1,500 and £3,000 for a straightforward estate administration case, although costs can be significantly higher for more complex estates. For example, the fee for 1% on an £1,000,000 estate would mean over £10,000 would be payable to the Solicitor, whereas a fixed-fee charge from Kings Court Trust would be based on the work involved in the estate rather than the estate value. This could save the beneficiaries a large amount of money. 

It is important to contact various probate providers and obtain quotes to determine the most cost-effective option for the estate. It's also worth noting, that additional fees such as VAT, the probate fee, and other third-party costs may be applicable. 




Kings Court Trust is a provider of probate and estate administration services that provides comprehensive support to families in need. 

With a team of experts on hand, we can help with obtaining a Grant of Representation, navigating complex legal and tax requirements, and everything in between. In full estate administration cases, we can take on all of the work involved and relieve you of the complicated paperwork and many tasks involved. 

If you have any questions about the estate administration process, including how to apply for a Grant of Representation, please reach out to our Client Services Team at 0300 303 9000 or by filling out a form below. 



Author: Nigel Merchant

Nigel Merchant is a Technical Manager at Kings Court Trust, where he has worked for over 15 years. Nigel has conducted over 2,000 family meetings and built up a huge amount of technical knowledge to share with partners and clients. Nigel has a calm and empathetic delivery which helps to achieve the business’ purpose of helping families to move on. Previously, Nigel worked at HSBC bank for over 25 years in the branch network, lastly as a Branch Manager and Personal Banking Manager, highlighting that customer service is a key driver for Nigel.

Topics: Executors, Grant of Probate, Probate, Probate Fees, Wills