Most people may never have been involved in applying for a grant in a persons ‘estate’ and the process can be new and very confusing. There are legal terms used that you may not have heard before and the process can seem complex. We have put together some helpful information below to give you an idea of the steps involved. Also you will see a link to the right of this page explaining the most common “legal terms” used which may be of assistance.
WHERE TO START
- Firstly, the death must be registered with the Registrar of Deaths : a death can be registered with any Registrar and is usually registered by the next of kin. They will require a completed Death Notification Form stating the cause of death to the Registrar. You can get this from the deceased’s doctor who attended the deceased. You must attend personally at the Registrar to register the death. When you have registered the death, you can get copies of the Death Certificate at the same time. Deaths must be registered as soon as possible after the death and no later than three months.
- Funeral Arrangements: before funeral arrangements are made I would always advise that you ascertain if the deceased person made a Will, sometimes individuals may set out the funeral arrangement in their Will.
- How do I find out if the person made a Will: if you are unsure you should contact our office and we can ascertain from local solicitors whether they hold a Will. Also the personal papers of the deceased should be reviewed to see if there is any correspondence from a solicitors office. People usual keep their Wills lodged with a solicitor, a bank or accountant or it may be with their own papers.
- When a deceased person has made a Will: the legal process which allows the assets to be distributed is called Probate. The person(s) appointed in the Will to ensure that the deceased person wishes as set out in their Will are carried out is called an executor(s). The executor(s) is the person who applies for the Grant of Probate.
- When a deceased person has made no Will: the legal process which allows the assets to be distributed is called Administration. Where the deceased has made no will they are said to have died ‘intestate’. If you die intestate, this means your assets, are distributed in accordance with the law. The person(s) who administers your estate is called an administrator.
- Ascertaining details of the estate: the personal papers of the deceased will need to be examined by the executor /administrator, as this gives the best indication of what assets the deceased has. It is necessary to ascertain the value of each asset, such as a house, bank accounts, insurance policies and stocks and shares, and furniture and jewellery, etc. This includes jointly held assets or other property in which the deceased had an interest. Anything owed by the deceased such as household bills, mortgages, loans and funeral expenses are liabilities of the estate and are allowable deductions against Inheritance Tax. Banks will usually arrange for the funeral account to be paid from the deceased’s account before probate. If there is a property that is unoccupied, steps should be taken to ensure its security and the insurance position checked. The deceased’s Income Tax affairs will also need to be completed.
- Applying for the Grant: once the assets and liabilities of the estate have been identified, the application for probate can proceed. Any Wills or Codicils are retained by the Court to become a matter of public record, but the Grant of Probate will include a copy.
- Collecting the assets: once the grant has been issued, it has to be registered with the holders of the assets, e.g. banks and company registrars. If these are too numerous to facilitate the process, the Court will, for a small charge, issue certified copies. Once the assets have been released, the liabilities of the estate can be paid. If there is a property in the estate and it is to be sold then this will probably involve the appointment of estate agents to handle the sale. There is no reason why this should not be arranged prior to the grant, although this will be required before completion of the sale can take place. Similar considerations apply if there is furniture or jewellery to be sold when the services of auctioneers may be appropriate.
- Distributing the estate: once the executors or administrators have gained control of the assets they must pay the liabilities and may then consider distributing to the beneficiaries.
IS IT ALWAYS NECESSARY TO APPLY FOR A GRANT?
Whether or not a grant of probate is required depends the assets of the individual.
A grant may be required when:
- A person dies leaving assets in their own name, e.g. a house, bank account, life insurance policy
- Property is held with another person as Tenants in Common. Where property is held as ‘tenants in common’ the deceased person’s interest in the property will fall into their estate and doesn’t fall to the other joint owner of the property. A grant is necessary in order to transfer the property into a beneficiary’s name or sell the property.
- A deceased person dies leaving money in a bank or other financial institution in their sole name. Financial institutions normally require a grant to be obtained before releasing the funds. In certain cases such as where the deceased held a small amount of money and has no other assets in the estate, the financial may release the funds to the executors/administrators. But this is not always the case.
A grant may not be required when:
- A person dies leaving no assets,
- A person dies leaving assets in joint names.
- Shares and bonds held jointly normally pass to the surviving joint owner.
- Credit Union accounts where there is a nomination will release funds or part of the funds without a grant up to certain amounts. But a grant will be required where there is no nomination.
How long does it take to Administer an ESTATE?
It is not possible to say precisely how long it will take to administer an estate because this depends on the nature of the assets and what arises. Delays can be caused where there is a business to wind up or claims against the estate involving legal proceedings, or where property has to be sold, or dealing with queries raised by Revenue or where there is a challenge to a Will. However, where you have a relatively straight forward estate the process can take between 3 to 6 months.
If you like to discuss the process in more detail or would like specific advice in respect of a family members estate, please contact us to arrange a convenient appointment.