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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

Requirement for a grant: personal representatives

A deceased person who leaves a Will (IHTM12041) is called a testator (male) or testatrix (female). In the Will someone is appointed to carry out the provisions of the Will and administer the estate. This person is called:

  • an executor (male) or an executrix (female) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or
  • an executor-nominate (male) or executrix-nominate (female) in Scotland

In this guidance we refer to these people as ‘executors’.

If a person has given their consent to act as an executor during the testator’s lifetime, they can refuse to act after the testator’s death.

If all the named executors die before the testator, or none of them is willing or capable of acting, the court appoints a person to administer the estate in accordance with the Will. This person is known as

  • an executor-dative (male) or executrix-dative (female) in Scotland
  • or an administrator (male) or administratrix (female) in the rest of the UK

In this section they are referred to collectively as ‘administrators’.

Someone who dies without making a Will is said to have died intestate (IHTM12101) and normally their next of kin is appointed by the court to deal with the deceased’s estate. This person is also called:

  • an administrator/administratrix (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), or
  • an executor/executrix-dative (Scotland)

In this section we refer to these people as ‘administrators’.

More than one executor or administrator may be appointed. There is no limit to the number of executors that the testator can name in their Will, but (except in Scotland) a grant (IHTM05001) cannot be given to more than four. It is normal to appoint at least two in case one dies before the testator.

Executors and administrators are collectively known as personal representatives. In each case before a personal representative can begin to deal with an estate they need to obtain a grant.