The death of a family member or friend can be a time of great distress. Having to deal with the administration of their estate can also frequently be too much to cope with alone.
Below are some of the main steps an Executor must take during the administration of the estate, where we can assist in every aspect.
Please view our FAQ section below for further information on the administration process.
There is very little in an estate administration which has to be done immediately after a death. Your first priorities should be to arrange the funeral and register the death which will both be done in the first week or so. A funeral director will be able to help assist and advise you on both of these elements.
It is possible that BTO holds the deceased’s Will if they were a client in their lifetime. One of our team will be to confirm this for you when you contact us.
Please note that we now hold Wills for all clients of:
– BTO Solicitors LLP
– Brechin Tindall Oatts
– Brechin Robb
– Tindall Oatts
– Cornillon Craig & Co
– DAC Beachcroft
– Headrick Inglis Glen & Co
– Raeburn Hope
The funeral bill is treated as a ‘priority debt’ in an estate and should be able to be settled by the deceased’s bank account. The bank should be able to advise further on this.
An estate administration normally takes no less than 6 months. However, the length of administration can depend on a number of factors including the estate complexity, if there is no Will, if Inheritance tax is payable, if there is a house to be sold, or if there is foreign assets etc. In more complex estates, an administration can reasonably take over 12 months to finalise.
We offer two feeing options when handling an estate administration. The file can either be sent for auditing by an independent law accountant who will consider the file itself and determine how much the fee should be depending on the work carried out by us. Alternatively, we can negotiate a fixed fee with you at the outset if you would prefer a degree of certainty. Please see our Costs page for more info on how much it costs to deal with a deceased person’s estate.
In estate administrations, the Executor has the responsibility to settle any outstanding debts of the deceased. They settle these debts from the estate assets. All creditors have six months to make their claim known to the Executor, and if the Executor distributes all assets before the six-month deadline, they are personally liable for any further debts which come to light. Therefore, it is a general rule of thumb that estates are not wound up in less than six months.
If the deceased has no Will, their estate will be treated ‘intestate’ and legislation will determine the beneficiaries of the estate. Your solicitor will be able to advise on this further. Without a Will, there will also be no Executor appointed to handle the administration. In this case, the deceased’s family will have to apply for the court to appoint a suitable Executor. It will also be necessary to obtain a bond of caution which is an insurance policy the Executor is obliged to obtain in order to protect the beneficiaries.
As an Executor, you are formally responsible for administering the estate. This role will involve compiling an estate inventory, engathering the assets, settling all debts and distributing to the beneficiaries. An Executor can rely on other family members to assist in this role or instruct a solicitor to carry out the administration on their behalf.
The Executor will have to apply to the court for Grant of Confirmation (known as ‘Grant of Probate’ in England). This effectively gives the Executor authority to engather the deceased’s assets and distribute them appropriately.
When a death occurs, the deceased’s bank accounts become ‘frozen’. This means that no one can legally access or transact with the account. The Executor will have to obtain Grant of Confirmation before dealing with the bank account. However, the bank may waive their requirement for Confirmation if the account balance is below a certain threshold.
Most utility companies will allow their services to continue at the property in the deceased’s name, until the Executor has sufficient funds to settle any debts. You, or your solicitor, should contact them to make them aware of the circumstances and clarify whether there are any further requirements.
Most insurance companies will allow their coverage to continue until the relevant time e.g. sale of a property, clearance of household contents etc. Some companies will have additional requirements to retain coverage e.g. if the house is unoccupied. You, or your solicitor, should contact them to make them aware of the circumstances and clarify whether there are any further requirements.
An Executor will be reimbursed for any reasonable expenses incurred in the administration of the estate. This is settled from estate assets before distribution is made to the beneficiaries.
The sale of the house can be carried out as part of the estate administration, but Confirmation is almost always required before settlement can occur. Confirmation can normally take a number of months to obtain, so marketing and/or the instruction of a Home Report should not be carried out early in the process.
Once Confirmation is granted, a property can be sold at any time. As with any sale, the usual timescales for marketing and conveyance will have to be considered.
Inheritance tax may be payable if the estate is above the relevant threshold. The relevant threshold will be dependent on the circumstances of the estate and your solicitor will be able to advise on this. If Inheritance Tax is due, the Executor has six months from the date of death to settle this without interest or penalties being incurred.
Certain categories of people have an entitlement on an estate, regardless of the contents of the Will. This is known as Legal Rights. This entitlement is due to spouses and children, or grandchildren if their parent has also predeceased. Their specific entitlement is dependent on the circumstance and size of the estate. Your solicitor will be able to advise further on this.
As a cohabitant (unmarried but living together as a couple) you do not have any automatic entitlements to an estate, unless specifically named in a Will. If there is no Will, you may make a cohabitation claim by applying to the court. The value of your claim is dependent on the circumstance and size of the estate. Your solicitor will be able to advise further on this. It is important to note that this claim is not guaranteed, and the court may decide against you.
If you are a beneficiary to an estate, you may wish to vary your entitlement. This can be for several reasons including your own tax planning strategy, or that you wish for someone else to benefit under the estate. This is best achieved through a Deed of Variation which is a document which partially rewrites the deceased’s Will or intestate distribution.
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