Download PDF. Registering a death and arranging the funeral are the first priorities. It is usually advisable to obtain several copies of the death certificate from the registrar because photocopies are not acceptable. The funeral expenses count as a liability of the estate and they are paid before any other liability.
Finding the will and identifying the executors Wills and codicils are frequently held for safe keeping by a solicitor, but a copy is usually kept with the personal records of the deceased. A solicitor will not release a will except on production of the death certificate and written instructions from all of the executors.
If a will cannot be found, family members will need to make extensive enquiries to find out whether a will has been made. If a copy of a will is found, it may be possible to use this in certain circumstances. Executors named in a will are not always known to members of the family and it is advisable to make contact at the earliest opportunity. The maximum number of executors is four.
If there is no will, the estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules and it will be necessary to establish the family relationships to determine who is entitled to the estate. This is not always easy and it should be remembered that children born of unmarried relationships rank equally with legitimate children.
One or more of the class of beneficiaries may apply for letters of administration a legal document enabling the executors to administer the estate , and special rules apply if there is a widow or minor beneficiaries. It can save large amounts of inheritance tax for the next generation and can be used to pass assets to beneficiaries not named in the will or in different proportions to those set out in the will.
Professional executors may be paid for their time, while other executors are not entitled to payment unless the will authorises it , although they can be reimbursed for reasonable expenses. If a person is appointed as an executor, they are not obliged to carry out any executors' duties if they are unwilling or unable to do so. If all of the executors are dead or unwilling or unable to act, the will may be proved by one or more of the beneficiaries named in the will. If there is no will, the estate is administered by the people who are entitled to inherit the estate, according to intestacy rules.
They are referred to as administrators, rather than as executors. One of the first and most urgent duties of an executor is to secure the assets.
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If the house is empty, it is also usual to redirect the post. In every case, it is necessary to obtain full details of the assets and liabilities of the estate. If a solicitor is appointed to act for the personal representatives, he will require all original documents relating to the assets, such as property title deeds, share certificates, bank or building society passbooks, insurance policies or bonds, National Savings certificates and bank statements.
Cash held by the deceased or found in their property should be handed to the relevant solicitor, if the amount is substantial. If it is a small amount it can be used to pay expenses, provided that a record is kept by the executor. The solicitor will usually arrange for any property or possessions to be valued, unless the executor prefers to make the necessary arrangements. The safe custody of smaller valuable items such as pieces of jewellery, silver or paintings can be a problem and if there is any doubt about their security it is usually possible to arrange for the valuer to hold them until they can be distributed.
Household insurers will not usually cover such items in an empty house. If an executor wishes to be involved in confirming balances or obtaining valuations, they should liaise closely with the solicitor as there are specific valuation requirements. The executor will be asked to hand over any bills or details of liabilities so that the solicitor can acknowledge them and ensure they are paid during the course of the administration.
If the main residence passes to a surviving spouse which would mean that no inheritance tax is charged , who then leaves it on their death to their children or grandchildren, the un-used RNRB may be rolled over on the second death, alongside the transfer or the main nilrate band. Inheritance tax has to be paid before the grant of probate can be obtained.
Inheritance tax on certain assets can be paid in instalments over ten years. Raising cash to pay the initial inheritance tax liability can be a problem and the solicitor will make enquiries about obtaining advances from the cash held by banks or building societies at an early stage, as this procedure can be time consuming. If there are no cash assets or the banks will not agree to release them, it may be necessary for the executors to raise a loan. It consists of swearing an oath, which confirms that the will and codicils, if there are any is the last will and testament of the deceased, that the person swearing the oath is the person named in the will as the executor, and that he will collect in and distribute the assets.
Where there is no will or no executor appointed under the will , the administrator will swear an oath in similar terms, which confirms that he is the person with the right to administer the estate. This process usually takes between two to three weeks from the time the papers are lodged.
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Collecting the assets may include the following: What can go wrong? Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Executors should appreciate that administering an estate is quite an onerous duty and a good deal of time and paperwork will inevitably be involved. They should also remember that their function is to administer the estate according to the law, usually without pay, and any executor who is in conflict with a beneficiary or is unable or unwilling to devote sufficient time and energy to the process should consider renouncing probate or having power reserved to him.
If an executor takes no action after a death, a beneficiary can ask the court to compel them to take a grant or renounce their appointment. This is rare but not unknown and usually gives rise to a great deal of delay and ill feeling. A defect in a will is a major problem and will inevitably delay the process. If the will was not executed properly, it may be necessary to trace the witnesses so that they can swear affidavits relating to the execution of the will.
If the will was not signed before witnesses, it will be invalid.
Sometimes the will is ambiguous or the names of the executors are not shown correctly, and again it may be necessary to obtain affidavits. Occasionally, part of the will may be declared invalid. If the will cannot be found but there is no evidence that the deceased destroyed it, a grant can sometimes be obtained, using a copy of the will.
Inevitably, this takes time and adds to the administration costs. What happens next? Once the grant has been issued, the executors can proceed to collect in the assets. Transferring or selling the house. Closing building society or bank accounts. Selling or transferring shares, unit trusts and saving certificates. Claiming life assurance policy monies.
Collecting pension arrears.
Selling personal effects. It gives you the legal right to deal with the estate of the person who died. Find your local probate registry. You can have up to four executors and you must all agree who applies for probate.
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You can only submit one application. If the person did not leave a will you can apply to be an administrator of their estate. Depending on the value, you may have to pay inheritance tax. Read about inheritance tax on GOV. Find a solicitor in England and Wales using our free website. If you need help using our Find a Solicitor website, call us on Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
The cost of probate is currently under review by government.
How long does it take to get probate/administer an estate?
See our probate fees campaign for more information. Your solicitor should tell you what the costs are likely to be before carrying out any work. Your solicitor must make any claims against the estate within six months from the date probate is granted. Read more about claims to the estate on GOV. Dealing with the estate can take about a year.
- If the person left a will.
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The estate cannot be dealt with until all claims against it have been received.