What to do when someone dies

When someone dies there are many things that will need to be organised including what happens to that individual’s possessions, property and money.  These processes that can be both confusing and time consuming.

Administering the estate of someone who has died can be a complex job. Many people find that they are unable to manage it on their own and look to solicitors for help.

Our specialist solicitors have answered some of the most frequently asked probate questions here but for more information or advice please call 029 2039 1058 or complete our online enquiry form.

What is involved in the probate process?

Part of the probate process may include:

  • paying the funeral director’s fees;
  • writing to all asset and liability holders to confirm the value of the assets at the date of death, the income, interest or dividends received and any tax deducted in the last year;
  • ensuring that any property is secured and insured;
  • identifying all the beneficiaries;
  • completing relevant Inheritance Tax returns and arranging payment of 40% tax if the estate is subject to inheritance tax;
  • arranging for the oath to be sworn and forms sent to the probate registry to apply for the grant of representation;
  • placing statutory adverts for creditors and other claimants in the London gazette and local newspapers;
  • setting up and, if necessary, administer any trusts or life interests created within the will or by Act of Parliament;
  • completing income tax return and capital gains tax forms as appropriate;
  • arranging to close bank accounts and investments and receiving the closing balances;
  • paying all debts and completing stock and share transfer forms;
  • arranging the sale of any property or transfer of it to the beneficiaries;
  • preparing and sending the estate accounts to the executors/administrators to approve;
  • distributing the assets of the estate;
  • dealing with any agricultural and business assets;
  • ensuring the appropriate tax reliefs are claimed;
  • dealing with overseas lawyers where there are assets in other jurisdiction;
  • resolving disputes between the personal representatives and beneficiaries or even disputes between beneficiaries themselves.

Remember: whoever takes on the responsibility of the administration will be personally liable for the estate so you may wish to consult a professional for advice.

What is involved in the administration of an estate?

Administering an estate involves dealing with all the property, investments and other assets of the person who has died and settling all their debs, including income tax liabilities, and then distributing the estate between the beneficiaries entitled under the deceased’s will or the intestacy rules.

If the person who has died left a will, the executors can prove it and a grant of probate can be obtained. If there is no will, the deceased died ‘intestate’ and his or her estate will be distributed in accordance with the statutory rules. In such cases, a grant of letters of administration is obtained, usually by a close relative.

If an estate is incorrectly administered, or if the money is distributed before all the debts have been paid, the executors or personal representatives may be made personally liable.

Do you need a grant of probate or letters of administration?

No. It is often the case that husbands and wives hold their assets jointly and in such cases the survivor of them may take over any jointly-owned assets upon production of a death certificate.

In many cases it is not necessary to obtain a grant of probate or letters of administration where the estate does not exceed £5,000. Some banks and building societies will even release funds held up to the value of £15,000 without needing to see a grant.

Even so, if for example there are a number of small assets totaling less than £5,000, it may still be swifter and more convenient to obtain a grant to deal with them.

What is a grant of representation?

It is a court order issued by one of the Probate Registries of the High Court and confers authority on the personal representative (executors and administrators) to administer a deceased person’s estate.

There are a number of different types of grant, but the two that are most common are a grant of probate and a grant of letters of administration.

Grant of probate

This is issued to the executor, or executory named in the deceased’s will and it confirms the authority of the executors whom the will appoints.

Grant of letters of administration

This is issued where there is no will, or where there are no executors appointed in the will or the named executors have died or renounced. A grant of letters of administration is issued to the persons entitled in law to act as the deceased person’s administrators.

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