The death of a loved one is a distressing time. There are practicalities surrounding death which need to be taken care of, such as arranging the funeral and winding up the estate of the deceased.
What happens to a person’s estate after they die depends on whether they wrote a valid will.
The assets held in their name are frozen on their death.
The will may be held by a firm of solicitors or by a bank, or by an individual known to the deceased. It may be in the deceased’s home. It is important to find the will as quickly as possible. If there is a valid will appointing executors, then the executors are entitled to apply for a grant of probate.
An executor, also known as a personal representative, is a person named by the deceased in their will to make sure their last wishes are carried out and to make sure debts and taxes are paid. They are responsible for arranging the funeral. There is no limit on the number of executors a person can appoint in their will.
A probate is a document, including a copy of the last will, which names the executors and confirms their authority to deal with the assets of the estate. A grant of probate is required before banks, building societies and other institutions can release the assets of the deceased.
If the deceased died intestate—without leaving a valid will—then the relatives are entitled to apply to the local Probate Office for a grant of administration. The court may appoint a person to carry out the duties of an executor.
If the value of the estate is small, then there may be no need to apply for a grant of administration. You would instead need to write a letter to the bank or building society that is holding the money.
In order to help the solicitor, it is a good idea to have ready certain details about the deceased, including: their national insurance number, NHS number, date and place of birth, date of marriage or civil partnership, child benefit number, and tax reference number.
The solicitor will ascertain the value of the assets and liabilities of the deceased. Any inheritance tax, debts and funeral expenses will be paid from the proceeds of the estate.
Once this has been done, the executors of the estate will be asked to approve the payment of any legacies.
Prior to the deceased’s death, they might have appointed a person to have power of attorney over their financial affairs. This can be useful where, for example, a person suffers dementia or some other condition such that they are unable to handle their own financial matters. There are different types of power of attorney.
Power of attorney ends on the date the deceased passed away.
The deceased may have been owed money. If so, how do you go about getting this back?
Where there was an agreement in writing, the executor can request repayment on behalf of the estate. If the loan was arranged on a casual basis then it will be difficult to prove and may not be recoverable.
The law regarding wills and succession is very complex. Different laws apply in Scotland and England, although the basic rules regarding executors, grant of probate and payment of debts and tax are similar. A solicitor will be able to guide you through the process.
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