Administration Of An Estate – Just Show Me The Money!

Why is it that the administration of a deceased person’s estate seems to take so long when friends and neighbours have managed to do it within weeks?

The amount of time it takes to administer an estate in the UK can depend on the type of assets included in the estate and who the beneficiaries are.

When one spouse dies and all the assets were held jointly, the administration of the estate is relatively straight forward and quite often does not require the guidance of a legal advisor.

However, on the death of the second spouse, things can be very different.  The majority of the assets will have been held in the sole name of the surviving spouse and will be being transferred to completely new beneficiaries.  In this instance, and dependant on the value of the estate, a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration may be required.

If the deceased made a Will, the executors appointed within the Will will apply for a Grant of Probate.  If the deceased hadn’t made a Will, the rules of intestacy come into play and Personal Representatives (normally the next of kin) apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration.

In England and Wales, a testator (the person making the Will) has “testamentary freedom”, a right to leave their estate to whoever they choose; but our Solicitors are seeing an increase in number of claims against estates.  

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act states that any eligible person who believes he or she should have been named as a beneficiary of an estate but has not been can make a claim for financial provision from the estate.  As such, a Personal Representative or executor would be well advised not to distribute an estate too soon for fear that they may pay out all the money and then either have to ask for it back or be personally liable to settle any claims.  Personal Representatives /Executor’s are responsible for collecting in the assets of an estate, settling the debts and distributing the assets to the correct beneficiaries.  Personal Representatives /Executor’s would be advised to take reasonable steps to protect themselves from any personal liability.

Claims by potential beneficiaries of an estate should be made within 6 months of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration being issued by the Probate Registry.  If a Personal Representative/Executor distributes within this period then they are liable for any claims that come in after the distribution.  If they wait until after the expiration of the 6 month period, or longer if ordered by the Court, then any claim against the assets of the estate follows the assets into the hands of the recipient beneficiary, the claim follows the money.

Executors and Personal Representatives may also consider placing Trustee Act notices in the local paper and London Gazette.  This advertises the Personal Representative /Executor’s intention to distribute the estate and invites any outstanding creditors to come forward.  Although a cost will be involved, if the relevant amount of time has elapsed, the Personal Representative/Executor’s can then distribute the assets free of any personal liability from unknown creditors.

For more information or an initial consultation please call Kirsten Bradley, a Wills, Probate, Tax and Trusts Solicitor at Forbes Solicitors on freephone 0800 975 2463 or contact our Solicitors online today.

This entry was posted in Wills, Tax, Trusts and Probate.