Dealing with an estate as an executor during the pandemic

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Adjusting to the challenges caused by coronavirus has been difficult for all of us. However, for those acting as the executor of the Will during this period, the obligations placed on them may seem particularly onerous and overwhelming.

In recent years, the number of claims brought against executors by beneficiaries has risen. This underlines how vital it is that executors understand their duties and obligations to prevent disputes arising. So, what is required of you as an executor and how will the lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures impact upon you in the role?

Act promptly and with reasonable care

Social distancing restrictions and precautions against the spread of the virus make it more challenging for executors to carry out their duties in a timely fashion. Many institutions are also experiencing significant delays as a result of the pandemic, including HMRC and the Courts. However, the legal obligations to meet any deadlines, such as for payment of taxes, remain and you should ensure that you have adequate time to make the necessary arrangements.

Take action to protect and maximise the value of the estate

One of the main duties of an executor is to protect the estate and maximise its worth for the beneficiaries. There are several things you may wish to do to make sure you comply with this duty, even while coronavirus restrictions are in place. You should ensure that any property forming part of the estate is secure, including removing valuables from any unoccupied buildings and notifying insurers that the property is now empty.

Stay in regular contact with beneficiaries of the estate

Beneficiaries may be feeling anxious about the estate, particularly in the current circumstances, with concerns focusing a potential depreciation in the value of any property or investments of the estate. By staying in regular contact with beneficiaries you can reassure them and keep them informed about the performance of the estate assets.

You may wish to seek professional advice from an experienced financial advisor, to ensure that you are minimising any losses, and it is essential that you keep accounts and records up to date. This may be more challenging as a result of COVID-19 but this does not protect you from criticism from beneficiaries if you fail to do so. You must also be responsive when beneficiaries request accounts or information.

How should I deal with difficult situations surrounding beneficiaries?

Sadly, even when you endeavour to conduct your duties as executor to the best of your ability, you may face criticism from beneficiaries and feel you cannot do right for doing wrong. The best way to deal with any difficulty is by taking direct steps to mitigate the situation swiftly or contact an experienced lawyer for advice.