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