Being named as Executor does not mean that you have to do it - but as soon as you start acting in the role then you are committed.
Preparing a Will is one thing, putting it in to action is quite another. This is the role of the Executor, and you may be asked to take on this role for one of your own family members or for a friend. If there is no Will then beneficiaries (who inherit under the rules of intestacy) can apply to be the 'personal representative' of the deceased - essentially taking the same role as an Executor.
Either way, it is a significant role, with legal and financial responsibilities lasting many years and with fines and financial liabilities if you act inappropriately. But don't let that put off - Alder Wills & Probate Ltd can provide everything from free advice through to even taking on the full responsibility if you wish.
Often an Executor has to obtain a Grant of Probate. Put simply, Probate is the process of proving the validity of the Will (or the intestacy) and obtaining a Grant of Representation (official confirmation) showing the authority of the Executor(s) to carry out the Will. For a simple Will with a very simple estate Probate might not be needed, but for the rest it can involve some complex forms covering legal and financial issues including making submissions to the Tax authorities. Sometimes just one small asset (such as a handful of shares) can force you into obtaining probate. Once you have the Grant you are then responsible for gathering in the assets, paying all the debts (including any unpaid tax) and then distributing the assets according to the directions of the Will.
Being an executor requires you to keep good records of what you have done. Maybe you consider everything to be simple, because it is all going between spouses. However, the new Inheritance Tax rules for married couples mean that when the 2nd members of a couple dies the executors may have to go back and look at the records from the 1st estate. This is all part of the responsibility of being an executor, and is part of the reason why many people like to pass the role to specialists in this area. Alder Wills & Probate Ltd, can give you advice about this, and even arrange for the responsibility to be taken off your shoulders.