Roles of Executor and Administrator

Find out the difference between the executor and the administrator

Last updated: 16 March 2017

What is an executor of a will?

An executor is a person appointed by the person who has passed away to oversee the managing of their estate. In most cases, this role is taken by a close family member or friend. The intended executor of a will is usually revealed before the writing of a will. If this doesn't happen, in most cases the identity of the executor will be written in the will.

Before any of the estate can be divided, however, probate needs to be granted to the executor so they can legally conduct their duties.

What is an administrator of a will?

The administrator is responsible for managing the estate when there is no will, the will doesn’t name an executor or the executor has abstained from their role. Only in these circumstances where there is no executor will an administrator take up the responsibilities of the executor.

To become an administrator of an estate, a close family member or friend has to apply for permission to adopt this role. If accepted, they will receive letters of administration, which gives them the authority to manage the estate as specified in the will.

Duties of an executor or administrator

Below are some of the most common responsibilities associated with being an executor or administrator of an estate:

  • Send copies of the death certificate to banks, building societies and other financial organisations so that the funds can be released
  • Ask banks, building societies and other financial organisations to freeze accounts so no money can be taken without appropriate legal authorisation
  • Open a bank account for the estate
  • Check for any creditors and debtors
  • Prepare a thorough list of all of the estate’s assets and debts
  • Calculate the value of the inheritance tax and arrange to pay it
  • Send the relevant documents to HM Revenue and Customs and the probate registry
  • Collect any funds indebted to the estate
  • Pay any debts, fees and expenses owed from the estate
  • Distribute the assets of the estate to the entitled people according to the will or to the rules of intestacy

In the event that the total debts of the estate are greater than the total assets, the executor or administrator should contact a solicitor for professional advice.

What to do if you do not want to be the executor of a will

If you have been identified as an executor in a loved one’s will and don’t want to act in this role, you have the choice of renouncing the role.

In order to relinquish the duties of an executor, you will have to complete the ‘Form of Renunciation’. After this form is filled, it needs to be sent to a Probate Registry along with the will.

After that is done, another family member or friend can apply for letters of administration to gain legal authorisation to manage the estate as an administrator.

Instead of renouncing, you do have the option of naming someone else the executor of the estate on your behalf. To do this, you will have to put the person’s details into the PA1 form. The person you’ve named will then be sent a document that they will need to sign to accept the role of executor.

The renunciation is valid from the time it is filed by the Probate Registry. If you wish to retract your renunciation after this time, only a district judge or registrar can grant you the status of executor back.

What to do if the executor of a will is not managing the estate appropriately

Beneficiaries in the will may be dissatisfied with the actions of the executor. If that is the case, you should first ask the executor to make a record of the estate’s administration.

If after that you are still unsatisfied, you can apply for the courts to remove or substitute the executor.

This process can be very difficult as even before the courts consider removing an executor from their role you must prove serious misconduct has been performed by the executor. Some of the most common examples of misconduct a court may consider include:

  • Stealing from the estate
  • Failing to keep accurate accounting records
  • Not obeying a court order
  • Not managing the estate properly

Sometimes misconduct is not always clear and the court may not remove an executor from their post.

How to remove or substitute an executor

The first thing you should do if the executor is not managing the estate appropriately is to write to them asking for an explanation for their actions.

If the executor’s explanation is unsatisfactory, you can apply to the courts for them to remove or substitute the executor. With this application you should include:

  1. A sealed certified copy of the grant of probate or letters of administration
  2. A statement made by a witness stating why the executor should be removed or substituted
  3. A solicitor’s signed consent to proceed with the removal or substitution of the executor
  4. A statement from a witness stating that the proposed executor is fit to act as executor

If you feel that an executor acting on the behalf of a loved one is managing the estate irresponsibly or inappropriately, contact your solicitor to discuss your concerns.

Learn more about managing an estate.