Being an executor

Simple question, but can you be forced to pay for Council Tax/Water prior to obtaining probate?

My father passed on in late 2019, this was followed by numerous personal family events which delayed me applying immediately. We then had multiple lockdowns and various agencies were sympathetic.

Probate is still not complete due to numerous issues/complexities but the local Council and Water company have just issued bills to me as Executor.

I would be incurring debt by paying such bills (potentially on credit card) without access to the estate’s finances to pay them.

Feels harsh, but equally perhaps it (probate) should have been sorted by now?

If a sole occupant dies, council tax is not payable until probate. There is then a six month exemption until the property is sold or transferred. Presumably the council is aware of the position.

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That was indeed the situation.

The council had been fairly ‘tolerant’ until I spoke to them last at which point they insisted I should have obtained it by now so they were billing me directly, same from Water Company.

I was extremely compliant with lockdown travel legislation to the extent that a water leak went undetected for months.

Hard to explain, but prior to dad’s death I was extremely busy attending to him (and mum a few months before) and annualised flexible aspects of my job were put aside until he died after which they were ‘called in’ by my employer which took several months of higher than average work to fulfill. Then, suddenly once I thought I was on an even keel we had the pandemic and lockdowns.

Probably doesn’t help being sole executor and sole beneficiary as if others were relying on me I may have progressed further by now, or at least would have been badgered by others to do so.

My mother passed 30 months ago and we’re still dealing with probate. Can’t help just empathize.


Thanks Katsky - it’s the kind of thing in normal times I’d likely have ‘done and dusted’ by now but there are nuances/complexities that make it more difficult to progress.

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I think the council have been pretty fair not insisting on payment for 2 years. If you stand to lose a few hundred in the short term, but will inherit thousands in the long term. Pay the bill and save yourself the hassle and stress of getting into a legal battle with the council.

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I tend to agree with you as there are factors outside their or my control, however I always undesrtood that as an executor you are not obliged to pay for things until you have access to funds from the estate - defer it ok, but making me liable when I may not have the funds myself or would have to borrow short-term seems wrong.

Seek proper legal advice Sir
The “ Estate “ is liable for any charges or costs not the Executor.


Exactly so…


I thought there had been real issues with the probate system that meant there were lots of delays and covid wasn’t the issue.

Probate has always taken time as the Court system does it’s job.
Most of the slow downs occurs with people filling out forms and using YouTube as their guide and not taking proper legal advice.

I’m a little annoyed with the water company as having been told for the first time the bills had been ‘voided’ for longer than permissible I was expecting correspondence from the ‘void team’ to discuss the matter, but no I simply had a bill - even worse it’s in my name as though I’ve personally agreed to take on the supply rather than billed to Exors of XYZ…

Apparently I’d not have to pay if the place was completelty empty. The alternative suggestion was a water meter with option to revert within 2 years but I’d have to pay for rainwater drainage/sewage anyway - that may be worth a shot but might make the property less appealing to a potential purchaser (if I evetually sell it). Apparently suppliers can insist a new occupant has a water meter though not all do so. That makes me think the suggestion is a ruse to get a water meter in and they’ll then treat me as a new occupant with no option to revert. :worried:

Water meters aren’t all bad. We had a water meter put in and my bills are a third of what they were before.

In my case it’s simply finding time to sort things out at a property not on my doorstep with numerous other family commitments - plus I’m doing things solo with no help. I’m prioritising my own family affairs (including my health) and clearing the place is on the back boiler as things closer to home take precedence.

No I agree, and they’re potentially much fairer.

I suspect for us currently with school age kids, bathroom usage, washing machine/dishwasher running several times a day it might prove a little more expensive, but we rented a larger property with a meter a few years ago and it probably wasn’t much different. They’re compulsory on new properties for many years I believe, and they might be an incentive to be more frugal with the resource.

As a executor you can charge the estate for your time up to a certain percentage.
Again I’d seek legal advice as you should not be liable for any expense.
Now if the property in question is held in joint and your name is on the deed then you not only have a issue but now a tax problem.
So again seek legal advice via proper channels

Thanks I appreciate the response and affirmation of my thoughts.

It’s a balance unfortunately - I’m sole executor and sole beneficiary so I don’t have other beneficiaries baying for their ‘cut’. If I charge the ‘estate’ for my time it makes little difference as far as I can see, as I’d be paying out and claiming back from my ‘pot’. I guess it might be important if charges reduced the value of the estate if inheritance tax was due - I don’t think it will (a gamble as you need to tell HMRC within a year normally) as I’d have my mother’s ‘nil rate band’ to fall back on and claim if I exceed the allowance after dad died. Hope that makes sense.

There are certain significant debts to pay once probate is granted. I will however potentially inherit the property once probate is through. There are strong emotional attachments for me so I’m not sure if I will keep the property as a second home, sell or use as a rental. The latter is unlikely as it needs updating and I’m not good with that kind of thing.

The propertry is not a particularly high value asset in itself, but makes up the majority of the estate.

I’ve naturally been happy to pay for background gas/electricity usage to prevent damp and to power a couple of security cameras I can monitor remotely.

The water charges are one where I’ve paid virtually nothing since dad’s death but in reality if I’ve visited I may have used the loo, washed my hands etc - hardly the level to justify full charges but a small amount.

As for Council Tax I’ve avoided using facilities such as refuse, tips and so forth so feel it’s just a nudge tactic to get me to decide what I do with the property. Currently at least should I decide to keep my childhood residence there is no ‘second home’ surcharge but that could change.

The balance really concerns potentially high legal costs for minimal return when probate may be through quite shortly, and I’d get a 6 month Council Tax exemption thereafter. Equally I’m feeling a bit ‘bullied’ to pay from my own purse when that should not really happen.

It’s tricky but I think I would tell them that you as executor will settle the bills from the estate after probate is granted. And mention Covid as a reason the whole business is taking longer than normal.

Good luck



Thanks David, that is likely to be my approach.

It’s probably best just to pay the bill and get a wiggle on. There is a huge shortage of housing and a family could be living there. Messing about with legal advice would probably cost more than the bill anyway. You’ll inherit the property so a few hundred quid is really neither here nor there. Even if you have to borrow the money the interest will be negligible. The stress of trying to delay things is probably far greater than that from getting on with it.