It is a grim prospect but after a death someone must deal with the estate and carry out the wishes of the deceased in accordance with their Will. This is the responsibility of the executor. More than one person can be appointed.
The role of the executor can fall to professionals (usually solicitors) or those without any legal experience such as family. It is a powerful position: control over the estate rests with them, but it comes with responsibilities too. Many people don’t really understand what is involved. The more complicated the estate, the more complex the job.
If you are appointed, you should think about arranging the funeral, locating a copy of the most recent Will (check with solicitors), registering the death (you can notify government organisations via ‘Tell us Once’ service), identifying assets and liabilities, paying any inheritance tax due. Only then can you apply for the grant of probate – the document authorising you to deal with the estate. Debts must then be settled and assets distributed to beneficiaries.
If you are drawing up a Will think about who you will ask; it is polite to ask those you want to appoint. It may be wise not to ask someone older than yourself. Some people are put off appointing professional executors because of costs. Some solicitors charge an hourly fee plus a percentage value of the estate, but not all.
Having a professional not only brings experience of dealing with complex estates but also insurance for errors or legal challenges. It can save relatives the ordeal of dealing with the estate whilst grieving. If there is likely to be a row brewing having an objective independent person looking after things can be very reassuring.