What is an estate?
The word ‘estate’ tends to conjure up images of stately homes and the landed gentry, but this word is used to describe everything you own when you die. We all have an estate, and it usually consists of a combination of assets for example property, personal belongings (including cars, jewellery and household items), investments including shares, ISAs, bank and building society accounts, premium bonds and National Savings, Life Insurance, pensions, and annuities.
What is estate administration?
When someone dies their assets need to be identified and financial institutions notified of the death. Next, the appropriate tax and debts should be paid, and the remainder distributed in accordance with the Will. If there is no Will, the legal rules on distribution (called the ‘Intestacy Rules’) should be applied instead. These steps and actions are called administering the estate, and sometimes the phrase ‘probate’ is used as a catch-all term for this process.
What are executors and personal representatives?
As an executor, you are responsible for administering the estate. If there is no Will then the administration can usually be undertaken by the next-of-kin of the deceased, and instead of being called an executor they are called the ‘administrator’, a personal representative is a catch-all phrase for both an executor and an administrator.
As personal representative you have a legal duty and responsibility to administer the estate correctly. If you fail to do so you may find yourself personally liable to make good any loss the beneficiaries suffer. That is why lay personal representatives often ask us for professional help to administer the estate to ensure it is done correctly.
What can we do to help?
Once probate has been granted a copy can be sent to asset holders to start collecting in the assets of the estates.
- Opening a designated client account for the executors.
- Collecting assets. Closing bank accounts, selling or transferring shareholdings and property.
- Advising you of the tax and legal implications that relate to the transfer of any assets.
- Dealing with HMRC in respect of valuations, calculations and inheritance tax including obtaining clearances.
- Tracing, identifying and notifying all beneficiaries and carrying out necessary checks.
Once the grant has been obtained this stage may take three to six months depending on the market for those assets.