What can an executor do and what are they not authorised to do?

Apr 8, 2024

After a death, the person appointed as the executor to the estate has a range of powers. We take a look at what tasks they are entitled to carry out and what they are not permitted to do.

An executor is appointed in the Will of someone who has died. Their role is to wind up the deceased’s affairs. Where no valid Will exists, an administrator is appointed to carry out the same job. This is usually a close family member of the deceased and someone who is entitled to inherit under the rules of intestacy.

What does the executor or administrator’s job entail?

The role of executor or administrator can be onerous, particularly in the case of a large or complex estate or where there is a risk of family disagreements arising. It can also be time-consuming, particularly if the deceased had a large range of assets and liabilities.

The main tasks include:

  • Valuing the estate
  • Securing property, to include arranging insurance for homes and vehicles
  • Notifying all asset holders and creditors of the death
  • Calculating and paying Inheritance Tax
  • Applying for a Grant of Probate or, if there was no Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration
  • Once the grant has been received, collecting in all of the assets, including clearing and selling property, and paying all debts
  • Placing advertisements in the Gazette and local press where necessary to request that creditors and unknown beneficiaries come forward
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries and obtaining receipts

If you have been appointed as an executor or you are taking on the role of administrator, it is open to you to ask a solicitor to deal with the estate administration on your behalf. This can make the process faster and will also reduce the risk of personal liability. If you deal with the winding up yourself and you make a mistake that causes a loss to the estate, you would be personally liable for this.

What are executors or administrators prohibited from doing?

Executors and administrators have a duty to protect the estate and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries at all times.

They cannot disregard the Will in any way. This includes not changing the terms of the Will and not signing a Will that has not been signed by the deceased.

Assets must be sold for their full market value and an executor or administrator should not purchase an asset themselves, which is known as self-dealing.

Executors and administrators should not deal with the estate’s assets until the grant has been issued legally appointing them to act.

They should manage the estate with care and not cause it loss.

Taking funds from the estate for themselves is also not permitted. This includes paying themselves for their time in dealing with the estate administration.

Where an executor has been appointed to act jointly with one or more other executors, meaning that they are all required to take decisions and sign documents together, an executor cannot act on their own.

If you would like to speak to us, call us on 0333 005 0072 or email us on hello@mylifelaw.co.uk