Executors should manage deceased estates as custodians, and implement wills as written regardless of own opinion. That’s because tempers may flare over contentious issues and arguments can become personal. The executor must make detailed notes of money coming in, and flowing out so they can accurately calculate the final amount owing to beneficiaries.
The Duties of an Executor / Personal Representative
The designation ‘personal representative’ in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 echoes the duty of the executor to faithfully provide a full inventory of the estate to the Probate Court on request.
They must also be able to account for all moneys passing in and out of the estate. These are statutory duties that cannot be avoided. However, they are unfortunately also where much probate fraud occurs.
May Any Interested Party Inspect Estate Accounts?
No, they may not because the information is personal to the deceased. However, beneficiaries of the estate residue are entitled to insist. This is because they are heirs of the residual after deducting specific gifts, debts, legacies, funeral costs, taxes and the expenses of administration.
If the personal representative / executor refuses, then a residual beneficiary may apply to the Probate Registry for an Inventory and Account Order that enforces their right.
A Common Format for the Estate Accounts
There is no prescribed format although the following are all likely contents:
1… A summary detailing the deceased, their date of death, the date of the will if any, the personal representative, and the beneficiaries and their entitlements.
2… The assets and liabilities of the estate at the start of the probate process which should be same as in the submission for the Grant of Probate. These will not however be the final figures because administration costs and subsequent events are not known at the time.
3… The inheritance tax account stating how much estate duty is due, if at all. Exemptions including spousal and charitable ones and nil rate bands also belong here. The latter are thresholds below which tax rates are lower / zero for certain assets.
4… The capital account of the estate detailing any alteration to the value of the estate since the deceased died. For example, assets may have been over- or under-valued initially, or assets may sell for less or more to fund financial bequests.
5… The income account listing all income received by the estate, such as bank interest, dividends, insurance pay outs etc. Such income incurs tax over a minimum threshold of £100.
6… Administration expenses including Probate Court fees, bankruptcy searches, statutory advertising, conveyancing fees, and estate agent commissions.
7… The distribution account that shows the transfer of legacies to beneficiaries. When this task is complete the residual value should be zero.
Does the Personal Representative Earn Nothing at All?
That’s quite correct, although solicitors acting as executors do earn conveyancing fees for their trouble. If someone insists on appointing you as their executor, make sure they appoint a solicitor as the second one. That way, you can leave everything with the exception of personal decisions up to them, so they earn their keep.