When a person dies you might have to deal with their estate (the money, property and possessions owned by that person). What do you have to do?

Well, the first thing you need to do is to check whether the person has left a Will.

The Will may contain directions regarding the funeral. It should contain a clause appointing personal representatives (known as Executors) who will pay any bills and then distribute what is left to the people who benefit.

If the person did not leave a Will, then the estate has to be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. In this case the person or persons who have the main entitlement to the estate will also act as personal representatives but will now be known as Administrators.

Applying for a Grant of Representation

In order to obtain the authority to deal with someone’s estate, whether or not they left a Will, the personal representatives often need to obtain a Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry. This is essentially a Court order confirming who is entitled to deal with things.

If there is a Will the Grant will usually be called a Grant of Probate. Where there is no Will it will be a Grant of Letters of Administration.

It will be necessary to get details of all of the assets (houses and land, bank accounts, premium bonds, shareholdings etc) and of any debts or other liabilities. An Inheritance Tax account will have to be completed even if no tax is payable.

It is possible to get a Grant without using a solicitor, but you may find that it is both time consuming and expensive to do so unless the estate is very straightforward.

Do I really need a Grant?

A Grant may not be needed if;

  • The estate is small. In this case the organisations holding the person’s money may be willing to release it to the Personal Representatives.
  • If the whole of the estate is in joint names and passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.

A Grant will always be required to sell or transfer a house held in the person’s sole name.

Once you have a Grant

The personal representatives named in the Grant must collect in all the assets and pay any debts. If you have not instructed a solicitor this will usually mean that you have to open an executors bank account to make sure the money is kept separate from your own.

Banks, Building Societies and other organisations holding money will need to see a copy of the Grant before they will release the money. It may also be needed to deal with any shares that the person owned and for selling or transferring his or her house.

Once the money has been gathered in and all taxes and debts have been paid the balance can be distributed either according to the terms of the Will or the rules of intestacy.

Remember that if you inherit some money this will increase the size of your own estate on death and you may need to review the suitability of your own Will.

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