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What is an executor allowed to do?

View profile for Helen Cohen
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After a death, the person appointed as the executor to the estate has a range of powers. We take a look at what tasks they are entitled to carry out and what they are not permitted to do.

An executor is appointed in the Will of someone who has died. Their role is to investigate all the deceased owned, report to the appropriate authorities, and wind up the deceased’s affairs. Where no valid Will exists, an administrator can be appointed to carry out the same job. This will be someone who is entitled to inherit under the rules of intestacy.

What does the executor or administrator’s job entail?

The role of executor or administrator can be onerous, particularly in the case of a large or complex estate, or where there is a risk of family disagreements arising. It can also be time-consuming, particularly if the deceased had a large range of assets and liabilities.

The main tasks include:

  • Valuing the estate
  • Securing estate assets
  • Notifying all asset holders and creditors of the death
  • Calculating and paying Inheritance Tax
  • Applying for a Grant of Probate or, if there was no Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration
  • Once the grant has been received, collecting in all of the assets, and paying all debts
  • Reporting in relation to the estate’s income and capital gains and paying any appropriate taxes
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries and obtaining receipts

An executor or administrator can choose to ask a solicitor or other legal professional to deal with the estate administration on their behalf. This can make the process faster and can reduce the risk of personal liability to the executor or administrator. If someone deals with the winding up of the estate themselves, and makes a mistake or fails to carry out certain duties, they may be held personally liable for any loss that is caused.

What are executors or administrators prohibited from doing?

Executors and administrators have a duty to protect the estate and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries at all times.

They cannot disregard the Will and must carry out the estate administration, and pay any money from the estate to those who are named in the Will, exactly as the Will provides.

Assets should be sold for their full market value and an executor or administrator is not usually permitted to purchase an asset themselves, which is known as ‘self-dealing’.

Executors should manage the estate with care and do all they reasonably can to avoid any loss to the estate (this includes taking advice where appropriate to ensure they claim all available tax allowances and reliefs, so as not to result in a higher tax bill than is necessary).

Taking funds from the estate for themselves is also not permitted. This includes paying themselves for their time in dealing with the estate administration. Certain executors may be entitled to be paid for their work, but this is limited and executors should always take legal advice before taking any payment from the estate themselves.

Executors must not mix their own funds with estate funds. For example, an executor should not close a bank account belonging to the deceased person and have the balance paid to their own account, even if this is only for a short period of time before the funds are transferred to another account for the estate.


Contact us

If you are an executor of someone’s Will or are dealing with the estate of someone who died without having made a Will and would like assistance with the estate administration or advice upon your role, and what you are required to do, please get in touch with us. You can contact our Probate and Estate Administration team by email at or by telephone on 01252 733 770. We will be happy to provide you with details of the next steps in the process and arrange an appointment for you to meet with one of our expert probate lawyers at our Farnham office.