The role of an Executor or Administrator in estate administration

As a Personal Representative in England & Wales, you shoulder a significant responsibility to oversee the orderly and timely administration of someone’s estate after their death. Whether you’ve been appointed by a loved one’s Will or by operation of the Intestacy Rules, your role involves legal obligations, financial tasks and, often overlooked, emotional considerations.

There are two types of Personal Representative:

  • Executors who are appointed by the Will of a deceased person and derive their power from the Will itself
  • Administrators who are appointed upon application by the Probate Registry when a person does not leave a Will, when the Will is partially ineffective or where it cannot be agreed who should act.

Acting as a Personal Representative (Executor or Administrator) is an onerous task. You have numerous duties and obligations to balance to the estate, the beneficiaries and various Government agencies. Personal Representatives can be responsible from shortly after the death until (sometimes) several years later when the affairs are finally concluded and the estate fully distributed.

The key tasks can include:

  1. Registering the death with the relevant authorities (if there is nobody else in priority over you to do it). In England this must be done within five days and there is lots of useful advice on
  2. Completing the “Tell us Once’’ form / online notification as will be directed when the death is registered
  3. Confirming whether or not a person has left a Will. If there is no Will, then an Intestacy Application will need to be made if the person left assets. However, before an application can be made it is good practice to make reasonable enquiries / searches to establish that a Will does not exist.
  4. Arranging the funeral if no one else is handling it. This can be a difficult task if the person has not previously indicated the type of funeral they would like.
  5. Notifying Financial Institutions – Informing banks, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), private pension providers, insurance companies and other financial institutions about the death and obtaining date of death valuations for these and other assets (such as cars, personal property and any land or buildings the deceased owned). Increasingly, the work of a Personal Representative (Executor or Administrator) will include trying to establish if there are any digital assets that need to be valued / considered.
  6. Investigating Lifetime Gifts made by the deceased.
  7. Gathering the necessary information to finalise the deceased’s lifetime Income Tax affairs.
  8. Reporting the value of the estate for Inheritance Tax purposes (if appropriate) and arranging payment of the tax due (or at least some part of it depending upon the assets involved).
  9. Applying for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration which is, in essence, a certificate issued by the Probate Registry confirming the Personal Representative may deal with the estate.
  10. Selling any assets that need to be sold.
  11. Managing outstanding payments and paying all debts on the estate.
  12. Obtaining confirmation from HMRC that all tax has been paid and the estate information as submitted to them is accepted, or negotiating with them if they are not.
  13. Preparing detailed accounts to demonstrate the value of the assets at date of death, the liabilities settled and showing how the figure distributed on completion was reached.
  14. Distributing assets to beneficiaries in accordance with either the Will or the Intestacy Rules.

When to use a Solicitor

If the estate is complex, involves trusts, significant lifetime gifts, foreign assets, issues of domicile or there are business interests, consider seeking professional legal advice from a Solicitor. It may also be that, even in relatively straightforward estates, the emotional burden of dealing with the affairs of a loved one can be eased by seeking professional help.

Inheritance Tax and estate administration can be complex and there are issues that can arise and trip up the uninitiated. We have worked on cases where we have identified allowances, exemptions and variations to the terms of the Will that could be applied to the estate to save Inheritance Tax that the Personal Representatives freely admitted they would not have known about without the benefit of our experience.

If there are likely to be disputes over the terms of the Will, or over who should apply (where there is more than one person equally entitled), the involvement of a professional can smooth things over or, at least, prevent a dispute creating bigger problems and ultimately losses to the estate.

For more information contact Sara McGrigor or

About the authors

about the author img

Sara McGrigor


Specialises in estate planning, wills, probate and the administration of estates, trusts, and powers of attorney.

Stay connected, sign up for updates

Stay connected

Recent articles


Maximising wealth for future generations – the benefits of a family investment company

A family investment company offers a strategic way to manage wealth, ensure tax efficiency and preserve family assets for future generations.



Protection of assets pre-marriage and considerations on wealth planning

In this episode, we discuss the protection of assets pre-marriage and the key considerations for wealth planning for the future.



Digital legacy management the importance of documenting digital assets for executors

It is increasingly important to make sure our executors can access all our assets by keeping a comprehensive record of our digital assets, particularly those associated with financial accounts.



Empowering choices: How LPAs shape decisions on Life Sustaining Treatment

Michael Derrick outlines what to consider when evaluating whether or not to grant authority to an attorney under a health and welfare LPA in relation to life sustaining treatment.