‘Be­ing an ex­ecu­tor is an oner­ous task with great re­spon­si­bil­ity’

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peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mated the level of work that came with manag­ing an es­tate.

“Be­ing an ex­ecu­tor is an oner­ous task that car­ries great re­spon­si­bil­ity,” she said. “But it is im­por­tant to note that no one has to act. Whether you are ap­pointed un­der a will as an ex­ecu­tor or you be­come an ad­min­is­tra­tor by way of in­tes­tacy, you have a right to re­nounce your role.

“If you do de­cide to ac­cept the role and to ad­min­is­ter the es­tate, it is im­por­tant that ad­vice is taken to en­sure you ful­fil all of your le­gal du­ties, es­pe­cially on a size­able tax­able es­tate.”

The Of­fice of Tax Sim­pli­fi­ca­tion is cur­rently con­duct­ing a re­view of IHT. It said there were “sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges” for those who try to re­view the fi­nan­cial records of the de­ceased.

John An­netts, of law firm Howard Kennedy, said com­plex es­tates of­ten war­ranted pay­ing for pro­fes­sional help.

“It is of­ten sen­si­ble to get le­gal ad­vice in cir­cum­stances where the de­ceased held as­sets over­seas or had busi­ness as­sets, or where the es­tate was left to a num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries,” he said.

“It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily de­pend on the size of the es­tate, but it can pay to in­struct a lawyer where, as in the case with Mr Har­ris, in­her­i­tance tax is payable.”

Mrs Grif­fin warned that the cost of pro­fes­sional help could run into thou­sands of pounds and said a well-writ­ten will would elim­i­nate many of the dif­fi­cul­ties ex­ecu­tors en­coun­tered. Yet 42pc of peo­ple over 55 do not have a will in place, ac­cord­ing to Macmil­lan Cancer Sup­port, a char­ity.

“The re­al­ity is that with house prices so high there will be more peo­ple bat­tling with these is­sues in fu­ture,” Mrs Grif­fin said.

“Make sure your will is clear about how you want your as­sets to be dis­trib­uted be­cause there can be sit­u­a­tions where a will was writ­ten a num­ber of years ago and has not been up­dated. This could be be­cause they have named a spe­cific house which they no longer live in, for ex­am­ple.

“Ex­ecu­tors should be aware of what their du­ties are and seek pro­fes­sional help if they think it is be­yond their level of ex­per­tise. Al­though it might feel like it’s ex­pen­sive, it could be the best money you ever spend.”

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