Dealing with matters when a loved one has died can be an extremely difficult and overwhelming. In terms of their estate, there can be quite a lot to organise and consider. As a result, this can seem like a very daunting experience. Many clients in such situations approach us asking what probate is and where to start when dealing with the deceased’s estate.

The deceased’s assets

The deceased’s assets can be in the form of a house, personal possessions, bank accounts, savings and investments. These are referred to as their estate. An individual must deal with these assets, any outstanding debts and expenses. The estate needs to be distributed in accordance to the terms of the will. If the deceased passed without leaving a valid will, the rules of intestacy apply.

Who will deal with the estate?

This depends on whether or not the deceased has made a will.

If a will was left, the executors named are those entitled to deal with the estate.

However, family members who fall under the ‘rules of intestacy’ are entitled to deal with the estate if there isn’t a valid will. The rules of intestacy are ‘a pecking order’ of relatives who are entitled to a share of the estate where there is no will. The person who deals with the estate in this situation is known as an administrator.

Executors and administrators are collectively known as personal representatives. A personal representative is entitled to seek the help of a solicitor when dealing with the administration of an estate.

What is a grant of representation?

The probate registry issues this document. It confirms who the personal representatives are. If the executors of a will obtain this document, it is known as a ‘grant of probate.’ If administrators obtain a grant of representation, it is known as ‘letters of administration’.

Prospective personal representatives must complete an inheritance tax return in order to obtain a grant of representation. They must also swear an oath confirming that they will administer the estate in accordance with the law.

Is a grant of representation always required?

A grant of representation is not always required. This depends on the nature and value of the assets.

Banks and other financial institutions have different limits on the value of funds they will release without a grant of representation.

But if the deceased owned their own property (not held jointly), then a grant of representation will be required to sell or transfer the property.

Who will benefit from the estate and who are the beneficiaries?

This will again, depend on whether the deceased left a valid will. If one was left, the estate is distributed between the beneficiaries named in the will. However without a will, the estate will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy. Some jointly held assets will not pass under the terms of the will or intestacy but will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner.

Other assets, such as certain life insurance policies and pension death benefits, will pass outside of the estate. These are passed onto beneficiaries who have been nominated by the deceased, or at the discretion of pension trustees.

Get in touch

Our specialist team of wills, probate and trust solicitors can provide you with comprehensive advice if you are dealing with the estate of a loved one. For more information, call 0800 988 7756 (FREEPHONE) or email info@levisolicitors.co.uk.

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