Don’t bury your head in the sand
Dealing with your loved one’s possessions together with the inevitable paperwork can make it easy to feel like putting things off. Thinking about the estate will not be your main concern and being appointed as someone’s Executor can seem very daunting. Although it is important to take time to grieve, it is also important to take the first steps early on to avoid further heartache later. This will make it easier to ascertain exactly what requires attention and where the vital documentation you will need is kept. The sooner you can secure a copy of your loved one’s will, the sooner you can be sure you are following his or her wishes.
Register the death and arrange the funeral
The Registrar should be contacted as soon as possible after the death; the death should be registered within five days. If the Registrar offers to let you use the ‘Tell Us Once’ service operated by the government, this can save significant work later on. Funeral arrangements need to be made as soon as possible. Your loved one may have had a preference for how the ceremony is conducted such as the inclusion of a particular song or reading and/or in line with religious beliefs. Although it is clearly advantageous to have such discussions with your loved one prior to their death, you may find that their will and any letter of wishes provide you with a guide to what they may have liked. Your loved one may have paid for a funeral plan, but if not you can consider asking his or her bank to release funds to pay for the funeral if there are sufficient funds in the account.
Preparation is key to making the whole process as straightforward as possible. Gather together as much information as you can about matters such as bank accounts, investments life insurance and assurance policies, loans, mortgages, utilities etc. and the location of property deeds as appropriate. Go through the person’s paperwork carefully and avoid throwing documents out unless you are sure you do not need them. If you know that someone is planning to appoint you as their Executor, it can advantageous if they explain where they store these sort of documents in advance of their death.
Gather the information
If you have used the ‘Tell Us Once’ service referred to above, then this should mean that the various government organisations are already aware. If not, you will have to contact the local council, HMRC, DWP and so-forth directly. It is also necessary to contact all of the organisations mentioned above to establish what the person owned and any debts they owed. This can be a daunting task and, if you feel you are unable to cope, it is advisable to seek legal help at this stage.
Apply for a Grant of Probate
Although not always necessary, there are a number of things you cannot deal with without a Grant of Probate. The Grant of Probate confirms the Executor’s power to act and you may find certain organisations refuse to deal with you unless you hold such a grant. Applying for a Grant of Probate involves completing forms in respect of Inheritance Tax and swearing an oath. We offer a range of fixed fees for obtaining the Grant of Probate depending on the nature and complexity of the work required. If your loved one did not leave a will, it is advisable to seek legal help as the situation is likely to be made more complex.
Settle any debts
After you have gathered all of the relevant information and have a Grant of Probate your next act, if applicable, is to settle any remaining debts of the person. This is where your preparation earlier can pay dividends. Don’t forget that there may also be a debt owed to HMRC in respect of taxes other than Inheritance Tax. Of course it is not always possible to place ‘notices’ calling for potential creditors, but this is something that we can advise you on. If you find that there is not enough money in the estate to pay all of the debts, it is important you seek legal advice as soon as possible to avoid transferring any of the liability to yourself.
Don’t rush to distribute the money
Make sure you do not rush and are completely satisfied all tax and bills have been paid before you distribute any funds. If you distribute money to the beneficiaries without first paying all of the debts, you could find yourself personally liable for paying them. Be careful, also, to consider whether anyone else might potentially try and claim against the estate. In this situation it is advisable to seek legal advice as soon as possible. We can advise you about the length of time for which you should hold funds before distributing.
Don’t forget digital
The majority of people have some kind of digital presence, so remember to consider these too. This could be anything from email accounts to social media as well as even sites like eBay and Paypal.
If you are appointed as an Executor it can be a time-consuming and challenging time but, there is help available. Here at QualitySolicitors Knight Polson, we offer an array of varying support options from securing a Grant of Probate to full estate administration. With all enquiries we offer a free initial assessment service with no obligation.
To find out more, please do not hesitate to call us on 023 8064 4822 or email us here.