Many people are facing onerous obligations as the executor of the Estate of a loved one. These duties and responsibilities do not cease because of lockdown restrictions, and those acting as executors or trustees of estates or family trusts must understand what they must do, and what can be done at this exceptional time.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of beneficiaries bringing claims against executors for breach of their duties. Given the current challenging financial climate, recipients are potentially even more likely to bring an application if they feel an executor has failed in their obligations. Here we provide a brief outline of executors’ duties and how these may be impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
At this time, it will inevitably be more challenging for executors and trustees to carry out their duties properly. However, they must endeavour to do so. Executors must give sufficient time to ensure that they meet any deadlines, for example, paying tax. It is also essential to be aware that both the Courts and HMRC are experiencing significant delays at the moment, and as such, should plan accordingly.
An essential duty of the executor is to maximise and protect the value of the Estate. Even during the COVID-19 outbreak, the executor must take steps to secure the estate property. For example, removing valuables from any unoccupied property and letting the deceased's insurers know that the property is now empty.
Again, the challenging financial climate means that beneficiaries may be concerned about the performance of any investments that form part of the Estate. If you are an executor, you should maintain regular communication with beneficiaries, and ensure you fully understand your duties concerning any investments forming part of the Estate. You may wish to seek professional advice concerning investments to minimise risk.
Executors must actively keep on top of accounting matters, and if a beneficiary requests information, they must respond promptly.
Confirmation is a court document that gives executors authority to access money or other property that belonged to the deceased for example, from the bank, and to administer and distribute it. To obtain Confirmation, the executor must lodge an application with the Sheriff Court. Unfortunately, the sheriff courts are currently experiencing delays as a result of COVID-19. The cessation of much of sheriff court business, alongside a rise in deaths as a direct result to COVID-19, could mean significant delays to the winding up of the Estate of a loved one.
A significant part of the legal work involved in executry administration can and indeed should still proceed, even with restrictions in place. We can help you with completing an inventory of all of the assets of the Estate, including property, land, money and bank accounts, shares and investments, valuable items, insurance policies and pensions, as well as any debts or liabilities of the Estate. Cases will be heard in the sheriff court in the order they are filed. This means that the earlier you submit an application for Confirmation, the sooner your Confirmation will be granted. We can help you to proceed with the administration of an estate to ensure the Estate can be wound up in a reasonable timeframe.
You can find out more about our executry services here.
At Murray Beith Murray, we are committed to providing a high-quality service during these unfamiliar times. If you would like to discuss any of the issues covered here, or if you require assistance with any other Wills, Estate Planning, Power of Attorney or Trusts matter, please complete our contact form or call us on 0131 225 1200.
Our personal, attentive service coupled with sage, astute and commercially-minded guidance, allows us to build long-term, ongoing relationships with our clients, helping them to protect assets throughout generations. Our highly personal service reflects our culture, which is centred on integrity and trust, and the expert guidance we provide has been designed to be an investment, not an expense.