Have you ever agreed to be appointed as an Executor in a friend or relative’s Will? If you have, you may already know what a significant responsibility this can impose; especially if the deceased person had a less than straightforward financial situation to manage and sort out.

As an executor of a Will one of your responsibilities is to deal with any claims against the deceased’s estate. It is frequently difficult to be sure that all debts have been paid. Executors can protect themselves by advertising notices under Section 27 of the Trustee Act 1925 in the London Gazette and in local newspapers in the area where the deceased owned any land.

Placing a notice ensures that enough effort has been made to locate creditors before distributing an estate to the beneficiaries. This protects the executor from be liable for any unidentified creditors. The notice specifies a two-month period for claimants to contact the executors. Once that time is expired, the executors are permitted to distribute the estate, having regard only to those claims of which they have actual notice. A creditor who is too late can, however, pursue the beneficiaries who have received distributions from the estate.

Should a notice not be placed, and the creditor subsequently comes forward after the estate has been distributed, then you may have some personal liability for some unidentified debt.

There is a significant amount of responsibility that falls upon the executor of the Will and one of these is being liable to the beneficiaries should anything go wrong. For example, if you are an executor and cause loss to the estate, then you will be liable to any beneficiaries for wasting the assets. It isn’t uncommon for private executors to make mistakes during the administration process, especially if they have not been professionally advised and beneficiaries lose out as a result.

Executors have been known to misinterpret clauses in a Will and have given one beneficiary more than they were entitled to, meaning that other beneficiaries have suffered loss.

Every action taken by an executor must be accounted for. These accounts must be clear and accurate. The court can intervene and demand an account, should they believe actions are not being recorded properly.

Dealing with someone’s estate is usually difficult enough as we all have our own lives to manage, let alone administering and dealing with someone else’s. In addition, if you are an executor of a cherished family member or a close friend, you may be grieving their loss. If you feel that the responsibility of being an executor is too much for you, it is important that you seek legal advice and support from a solicitor who can help you through the process of applying for probate and dealing with the distribution of the deceased’s estate.

For further advice, contact Paula Murphy on 01792 468684 or email enquiries@pgmsolicitors.co.uk.

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