An executor is appointed in a will to
administer the estate after the death. It is usual, and sensible; to
seek the agreement of the executor before the appointment is made. After
the death, the executors' duties are defined in what is called 'the
executor's oath.' The duties are in general.
"To collect, get in, and administer according to
law the estate of the deceased” in accordance with the terms of the
Often, executors make the arrangements for
the funeral, and when doing so, make themselves personally liable for
the funeral account. If they do this they are entitled to be indemnified
from the estate.
The extent to which an executor carries out his duties
personally vary very widely. In some estates, there is very little to do
beyond the closure and distribution of one or two building society
accounts. Other estates can require substantially more work.
The executor may choose to ask a firm of
solicitors to carry out some or most of the work, or, indeed, if a firm
of solicitors is so instructed, to agree between them who will do which
tasks. The executor can choose to delegate almost all the work to the
solicitor, or to do the entire job him or herself, or to make any other
arrangement in between.
At a minimum, however, the executor should
expect to be involved in a certain amount of correspondence and signing
of documents. It would be usual also for the executor to do much of the
initial work of locating and identifying assets in the estate and also
where there are gifts of particular items to arrange for the
distribution of these items.
Whatever happens, an executor is entitled
to have his proper expenses paid out of the estate, so the task should
not normally be a financial burden.
Where people do go wrong from time to
time, is in under estimating the need to comply precisely with several
of the law's requirements. For example, it is common, but quite wrong,
for executors to distribute items from the estate to family members but
not in accordance with the terms of the will. 'He always said I could
have the clock.' may be true, but if it isn't what was said in the will,
or memorandum of wishes, or written specifically elsewhere and which is
mentioned in the will, it is incorrect for the executor to give the
Last, it is perhaps worth dispelling the myth of the "reading of
the will", where the executors, solicitor, and beneficiaries gather
together amid great suspense, and simmering acrimony, to reveal the
contents of the will. This happens very rarely, if at all.