If you have been appointed as an executor of someone’s Will you will have one of three choices:
- Take up the appointment
- Renounce the appointment
- Have power reserved to you if there is another executor who can act instead
However, you should bear in mind that if you “intermeddle” with an estate after a death, you will not be able to renounce your appointment and will need to act as an executor.
What’s classed as intermeddling with an estate?
Intermeddling means that you have handled the deceased person’s assets or held yourself out in the role of an executor. This could be collecting an asset or paying a debt. It could also mean you have dealt with handing over an asset to a beneficiary or have been running the deceased’s business after their death.
Certain acts are not regarded as intermeddling, such as arranging a funeral, securing goods or moving assets to a place of safety. By preserving the estate assets initially you are not considered to be assuming the role of executor.
What does the role of an executor involve?
You should therefore think carefully before you take up your role. If you are acting as an executor you need to bear in mind that you become personally liable for the financial aspects of the estate. You will need to account to a number of institutions, such as the Inland Revenue, as well as the beneficiaries of the estate. It will be your role to make sure the correct amount of tax has been paid, the assets have been sold for their best price and that the estate has been correctly distributed. If you make a mistake you could face personal financial liability for the losses incurred.
You should therefore carry out some investigations to find out what the deceased person owned and make a decision whether to act or not as quickly as possible after the death, so that the estate can be administered.
I would always recommend seeking advice if you have been appointed as an executor and are worried about making a decision on whether or not to act. With the correct advice you can carefully weigh up the risks involved before taking any action which may suggest that you have accepted the role.