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What are the duties of an Executor of a Will?

Bridge Law blog header image of probate inventory and Will with text on yellow box "What are the duties of an Executor of a Will?"

When making a Will, it’s important to carefully consider who you’d like to appoint as an Executor, as they play an important role in ensuring your wishes are met once you pass. In this article, we’ll share more about what duties and responsibilities an executor will have, to help you consider who is the best person or people to nominate to administer your estate. 

What is an Executor? 

When making a legally valid Will, there must be at least one person named as an Executor. 

The appointed Executor/(s) has a legal responsibility to ensure they carry out the instructions in the Will, including handling the overall administration of the deceased’s estate.

What are the duties and responsibilities of an Executor?

Carrying out the role of Executor comes with certain duties that must be fulfilled; however, the first port of call should be to obtain a Grant of Probate, which gives the Executor official authority to carry out most of their duties. 

Below is a list of some of the tasks Executors are often responsible for:

  • Making funeral arrangements if close family have not done this and arranging for payment for the funeral.  You do not require a grant of probate to go ahead with planning a funeral. Sometimes, a Will has not even been read before funeral arrangements are made (which is why it is beneficial to let your loved ones know about where your Will is stored and your funeral wishes in the event you should pass). 
  • Ensure all the property owned by the person who passed away is secured against theft, fire, loss and any other possible destruction as soon as possible after their death. 
  • Submit a statutory ‘Deceased Estates Notice’ advertisement in The Gazette and newspapers local to the deceased’s property for a minimum of two months – this allows you to ensure you can show sufficient effort has been taken to find and pay off all debts of the deceased’s estate, to protect yourself from having claims made against you personally in the future.
  • Notify all organisations where the deceased had assets, debts, income or liabilities of the death. 
  • Gather a full list of all of the assets and liabilities (including property, money and possessions) of the person who’s passed away and their value at the time of death. This should include any money due to the deceased’s estate as well as debts and taxes the deceased owed. 
  • Calculate any inheritance tax liability, taking into account any exemptions or reliefs and report details to HMRC if required.
  • Calculate the gross and net value of the estate and apply for the Grant of Probate.
  • Arrange payments of all outstanding debts and taxes out of the estate money. This should also include funeral expenses and estate administration expenses. 
  • Once all debts are settled, the Executor(s) should arrange the distribution of the estate to all beneficiaries as stated in the terms of the Will. In some situations, dependent beneficiaries may be entitled to an immediate or interim payment when the person passes away, however, this is usually a discretionary choice of the Executor and only applies to certain circumstances so should be handled with caution, as this is a common area where probate disputes can arise. 
  • Ensure you keep complete and accurate records of all Executor activities – particularly accounting records. As an Executor, you are accountable to the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate assets, so it is important to be able to show you have upheld your duties in case anyone questions this at any stage.

For further information on who you can appoint as an Executor/(s) of your Will, and additional things to consider when choosing the most appropriate Executor/(s) to ensure your wishes are met and the estate is administered responsibly, read our blog Who can I appoint as an Executor in my Will?’.

What if I’ve been appointed as an Executor in someone’s Will, but I don’t want to carry out the role?

If you’ve been appointed as an Executor but you decide later down the line either before or after the person passes, you do have options to change your mind. 

If the person whose Will appoints you as an Executor is still alive you can: 

  • Speak to them and explain your circumstances and request they update their Will to choose someone else to name as Executor instead. In some circumstances, if there are no other changes to be made to the Will, they may be able to do this by using a document to accompany the existing Will called a Codicil.

If the person has already passed away there are two options available:

  • If you have not yet started to handle the probate, you can apply for formal renunciation of your role as executor. (Permanently giving up your legal responsibility and role as Executor). It’s advisable to seek specialist legal advice when doing this to advise you further on your options. You can also speak to the HMRC helpline for probate and inheritance tax enquiries for advice. 
  • If you’ve already begun to administer the estate, you cannot give up your role as an Executor; unless you have a valid reason to do so, for example, ill health or a family emergency. It’s recommended you seek specialist advice in this situation to assess your options carefully. 

If you’re planning to make a Will but are unsure about who to appoint as your Executor(s), have worries about your Will being disputed or are an executor or beneficiary seeking further advice on a probate matter, speak to our specialist team today on 0161 427 0084 (Marple Bridge) or 01484 442 700 (Holmfirth). Alternatively, you can email us at

Written by Carol-Anne Baker 


Contested Probate, Estate Planning, Executor, inheritance, Probate, Wills

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