In our weekly legal column, the Leader, with the expert advice of the team at GHP Legal, sets out to answer some of your problems. Today's question is answered by partner Ulia Choudhry...

As executor of cousin's Will, how can I ensure I have paid all his estate debts?

Q: I rarely saw my cousin in later years but am sole executor of his Will. He now has terminal cancer, so I will soon need to execute my duties. Because I know so little of his affairs, I am worried about knowing what, if any, debts he has that need paying, and how I can ensure I am not held personally liable if I miss any. It seems insensitive to ask him. What can I do?

A: As executor of your cousin's Will, you will be legally responsible for his estate from his death to completion of its administration. You will need to determine the full value of his estate assets upon his death, including all financial assets, property and possessions. You will also need to establish what debts he has at that date.

If you are unsure what assets he had, you can order an asset search to help identify these. If you are not sure what debts he had, you can issue a Section 27 Notice which is essentially an advert to inform any potential creditors that the estate is going to be distributed. The s27 notice gives creditors two months to come forward and claim their interest in the estate. Any creditors who fail to come forward during this timeframe cannot then hold you as executor personally liable for any unpaid debt.

You may also need to pay inheritance tax, depending on the value of the estate and the reliefs available. This must be paid within six months of your cousin's death to avoid interest accruing, along with any income tax and capital gains tax on for example profits from the sale of property or shares. If the estate is valued at over £5,000 you may need to apply for probate before dealing with the assets. If you find all this too daunting, you can engage a solicitor to handle it and charge their fee to the estate.

This question has been answered by Ulia Choudhry, a partner with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, please visit our website and use the contact us form, or call us on: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194.