Duties of Executor | Private Client
28 May 2020
What do you do if your loved one, a relative or a friend has passed away and you have just found out that you have been named as an executor of their will. Would you know what acting as an executor involves or would you feel overwhelmed by the appointment? This guide is aimed at assisting you with the task.
What is an executor?
An executor is someone named in a will as taking legal responsibility for carrying out the wishes and instructions the deceased left in their will in relation to their estate. The deceased’s estate is all the property the deceased has left behind. In Jersey there is a requirement to appoint executors of the movable (personal) estate only, which includes cash in the bank accounts, personal effects, bonds, shares (including shares in a share transfer properties), cars, jewellery etc. Jersey Immovable estates don’t have an executor.
The person who made the will, called the testator, might have appointed someone else to manage (administer) the estate jointly with you. And while you will frequently know your co-executor, chances are that a complete stranger has been appointed alongside you. You should both be able and willing to work together and to reach joint decisions.
What are the duties of an executor of a will?
A will must be proved before the Royal Court of Jersey to be the last will and testament of the deceased. Therefore, one of your firsts duties as an executor is to locate the testator’s latest version of their will prior to making an application for the Grant of Probate with the Court. You will also need to establish the value of the estate as the stamp duty will need to be paid on the estate value at the date of the testator’s death. Upon applying for the Grant of Probate you will take an oath to administer the estate according to the law and well and faithfully discharge the duties of the executor.
Once the Court issues the Grant of Probate, you can start collecting in the deceased’s assets, paying any liabilities and then distributing the balance to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will. Your role will typically include:
- Contacting banks and other financial institutions (including the Co-operative Society) to cancel standing orders, request that any funds held in the accounts be transferred to the executor account and finally arrange closure of the accounts;
- Paying off any debts due by the deceased;
- Settling tax liabilities;
- Notifying the DVS and insurance companies of any change of vehicle ownership;
- Placing a notice to creditors in a local newspaper;
- Drawing up estate accounts for the beneficiaries to demonstrate that everything has been accounted for.
It is good practice to have a separate executor account opened to gather payments due to the deceased’s estate before distribution to the beneficiaries.
You should not make any distribution of the estate prior to the expiration of the year and a day from the issue of the Grant. This is the period during which claims may be made against the estate or the validity of the will may be challenged. It is prudent to carefully consider whether any legacies, even partial ones, should be paid out during this period, otherwise you will be personally liable for any shortfall.
What are the costs of duties or taxes?
Apart from the stamp duty payable upon application for the Grant of Probate, there are no death or estate duties, inheritance taxes or capital gains taxes in Jersey.
Income tax is payable on any income received by the estate from the date of death until the end of the estate administration period. Tax is not assessed on income due to non-Jersey resident beneficiaries. As an executor you will be required to provide the Income Tax Department with a certified copy of the Grant and the death certificate, complete a tax return and pay tax on the amount of income receivable.
What if I don’t feel up to the task? Can I opt out of being an executor of a will?
You have probably been appointed because the deceased trusted that you would do a good job as an executor. But being an executor can be onerous and, especially in a time of mourning, you may simply not want to do it. You do not have to act as executor if you feel unable to take on the role.
You can renounce your appointment by a formal Deed of Renunciation addressed to the Royal Court of Jersey and, if no alternative Executor had been named in the Will, the Court will appoint “an Executor dative”. Alternatively, you can appoint someone else, such as a lawyer, to do the job for you.