When an executor becomes responsible for administering the estate of a person who has died, he or she is required to gather in the assets of the deceased and to discharge from them any amounts owed by the deceased.

A recent news item shows how important it can be to make sure that all debts due are identified and dealt with before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.

According to the report, a Staffordshire woman died in 2010 and left the residue of her estate to her children, who paid for her funeral and then distributed the balance of a little more than £10,000 to her 15 surviving relatives.

Unfortunately, more than a year after her death, the Department for Work and Pensions noticed that the woman had failed to declare a small pension she had been receiving and thus had over-claimed benefits to the tune of £8,000.

The sum is legally payable by one of the woman’s daughters, who was her executor. Fortunately for her, her sisters have agreed to help her pay the debt.

If you are appointed the executor of an estate, you can be held personally liable for any debts of the deceased that are not paid out of the estate assets. We can advise you of the steps to take to make sure that the administration of any estate of which you are the executor runs smoothly, without leading to nasty surprises.