Wills and Probate
A Will is a legal document which (if properly prepared) can ensure that your assets are distributed in the manner you wish after your death, and so you can make financial arrangements for your close relatives. A Will can also be prepared to appoint guardians for children under the age of eighteen.
Where there is a Will
Under the terms of the Will, there will usually be an appointment of executors - the people chosen to administer the deceased's estate. This may include close relatives, friends, or a firm of solicitors.
If you are named as an executor of a Will you may need to apply for a Grant of Probate - an official document issued by the Probate Registry which you may need to administer the estate.
To obtain a Grant of Probate, the executors must submit the original Will and an Oath (sworn before a solicitor) to the nearest district Probate Registry. If the value of the estate exceeds a set limit, an Inland Revenue Account must also be forwarded to the Capital Taxes Office and any inheritance tax due must be paid. The Oath confirms that the executors will undertake to administer the estate, settle any taxes payable and then distribute the estate assets in accordance with the Will.
The Responsibilities of the Executors
Executors are responsible for making sure that the estate is administered correctly. In addition to collecting in the assets of the deceased, and settling any liabilities (including any inheritance tax that may be payable), the executors must also make sure that the wishes of the person who has died are followed.
The Role of the Executors
Principal tasks include:
- Ascertaining the value of the assets and debts of the estate
- Applying for the Grant of Probate
- Taking control of the assets and transferring them into their own names.
- Producing official copies of the grant of probate to banks, building societies, insurance companies and other institutions
- Selling the assets
- Discharging debts, taxes and other liabilities
- Paying out the legacies mentioned in the Will and also the remainder of the estate
- Produce estate accounts and tax returns
- Liaise with the Inland Revenue
Administering the estate
Once the Grant of Probate has been obtained, the executors can proceed with the administration of the estate. Each estate will be different but may include the collecting in of monies from banks and building societies, stocks, shares and bonds, the sale of a property and personal effects, the settling of outstanding liabilities such as the funeral account, utilities, credit cards and loans etc. Tax returns covering the period after the date of death will also be the responsibility of the executors.
The administration of the estate will only be complete after all legacies and debts have been paid and the estate assets distributed.
If there is no Will
If there is no Will, the person who has died is known to have died "intestate" and the process of administering the estate is more complicated. The law sets out who can act as the administrator - the person who has the legal right to administer the estate of the person who has died. This will be the person or persons who have a beneficial interest in the estate and there may be more than one person who has an equal right to do this.