When someone dies, the person appointed to administer their estate is known as an executor. An executor is often a family member or an executry solicitor, and is usually either appointed in the deceased’s will or by the court.

The executor of an estate is an important role and at times can be a difficult one, as there are a number of things to take into account when winding up an estate: Inheritance tax, acquiring confirmation, sorting unpaid bills (including expenses), paying legacies such as gifts, or cash sums left to individuals and making the necessary arrangements for cashing in investments and assets.

Every estate is different, however even professional executry solicitors can on occasion be surprised by what they find when they begin to administer an estate.

This was recently demonstrated in a case reported in the Wall Street Journal, which involved the estate of a wealthy woman from the US. Before her death, she appointed a lawyer to be the executor of her estate, and when this lawyer first met with her client she got the impression of an organised woman who had no heirs and an investment portfolio worth over $1 million.

The lawyer expected the administration of her client’s estate to be straightforward, however when she went to the woman’s house after her death to begin cataloguing the estate she quickly realised she was mistaken. Her client had been a hoarder, and the house was full of piles of paper reaching from the floor to the ceiling.

In the end, it took professional cleaners three weeks to empty the house and sort out all the belongings. Around 500 empty crisp packets were found around the house, which contained cash amounting to $12,000. Sculptures were also found that were worth around $20,000.

Although an extreme example, this case shows the complications that can sometimes face an estate executor and highlights the importance of expert legal advice.

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