A person’s estate comprises of their assets and liabilities after their death. Dealing with the estate is referred to as ‘administering the estate’. This may be in accordance with their last Will, or if no Will has been left, then the rules of intestacy.
You will need to look through the person’s personal papers and any electronic records to find out what assets they have left. Recent bank statements or their last tax return should help you to identify what they owned or their last source of income.
All sole and jointly owned assets will need to be valued at the date of death. In many cases, such as with property or jewellery, you may need to obtain a professional valuation.
The administration of the estate should be carried out by the person’s executors appointed in the Will (or the Administrators of the estate if there is no Will). In order to take control of the person’s assets, a grant may need to be produced, commonly referred to as ‘probate’. This confirms the authority of the Executors appointed in the Will to deal with the estate.
Before a grant can be issued, Executors and Administrators need to complete an inventory of the assets and liabilities of the estate for HM Revenue and Customs so that Inheritance Tax due can be calculated. Some tax on assets can be deferred if the estate does not have sufficient funds to pay for all of it. Banks and building societies are likely to release the funds from an account to enable this to happen.
After the Executors and Administrators have Signed a Statement of Truth the Probate Registry will check that everything is in order and issue the grant.
Any debts owed by the person at the date of death are liabilities of the estate which may reduce its value for Inheritance Tax purposes. Executors can deal with such liabilities once cash is received from banks and building societies following the issue of the Grant of Probate.
If assets need to be sold to deal with existing debts or tax, the Grant also gives Executors this power.
Once all debts and liabilities have been accounted for, the Executors can distribute the estate in accordance with the Will. If no Will was left, the rules of intestacy will apply. There are several types of assets to distribute:
These are the specific assets that have been left to a specific person in a Will.
Cash sums left to a specific person.
The remainder of the estate after the specific and pecuniary legacies have been distributed. Residue goes to Residuary Beneficiaries.
Throughout the process, the Executors need to keep records of their dealings in the administration. These Estate Accounts need to be approved by the Residuary Beneficiaries before the estate can be concluded.
Our experienced lawyers are ready to assist executors in the administration of estates. Read more about our Executor’s Support Service.
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