Estate administration

 

Estate administration is the act of distributing a deceased’s assets. This can be done in accordance with the deceased’s will or by following the intestacy rules.

When someone dies their estate has to be taken care of. This usually means their assets have to be sold and any taxes paid. The process is called probate and is usually taken care of by a named person in the deceased person’s will.

If you have been named as that person, you will sometimes be referred to as the estate administrator.

The rules of intestacy

When an individual dies his or her assets become his or her estate. Many individuals who die do not have a living will and their estate is distributed according to the common law rules of intestacy.

These rules are fairly straightforward as long as there are no family complications. There are generally no complications during the estate administration according to intestacy rules, if:

  • An individual had only been married once and never divorced
  • Had no children out of wedlock
  • All children were still alive and their whereabouts known

However, if any of the above was not the case the intestacy rules can prove both counter-intuitive and frustrating.

This is why it is recommended for people to plan their estate and write a will. Such a document allows an individual, as well as that individual’s family, to know that upon the individual’s death their assets will be clearly allocated in accordance with the deceased’s intentions.

If you are planning to leave a will, or you know someone who is, it is highly advisable to consult a solicitor when the will is drafted. This is because common law has several strict requirements which must be followed in order to ensure that a will is legally binding.

Executor duties

As the estate administrator, you have to apply to the courts for what is called a ‘Grant of Probate’. This is a legally binding document that gives the estate administrator the right to deal with the deceased person’s will if they have left one. The estate administrator can use this document to:

  • Access bank accounts
  • Dispose of any possessions left in the deceased person’s estate

If there is no will and you are being asked to be the estate administrator perhaps by members of the deceased person’s family, you must request a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’. Like the Grant of Probate, this document gives you the legal right to handle the deceased person’s estate.

Note that if you live in Scotland, you must apply for the ‘Grant of Confirmation’ that gives you the legal right to be the estate administrator.

As the estate administrator you may come up against some legal matters you can’t resolve alone. Probate and inheritance tax can be highly complex areas of UK law to negotiate. Using the services of a specialised probate solicitor is advisable to ensure you always fully comply with all probate laws and regulations. Heavy fines are imposed if you do not pay the inheritance tax that is due on time.

Are you still unsure of your duties in administering an estate? See our page on executor’s duties.

Are you the executor of a loved one’s estate and need to distribute the assets? Are you thinking about writing a will? Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist wills and probate solicitor for your case, based on your requirements and any complications which could arise from your circumstances. Please call us on 0808 129 5761 or complete the web-form above.

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