How do you deal with a deceased’s estate?

When a loved one passes away, they leave their estate behind. Every person’s estate is different and therefore it can be helpful to obtain the guidance of a professional in these circumstances. There are various formalities that need to be complied with when a loved one dies and this includes dealing with their estate. So how do you How do you deal with a deceased’s estate?

Did they leave a Will?

You will firstly need to see whether the deceased made a Will (statistically around half of the UK adult population do not currently have a Will in place). If the deceased did not mention a Will to you before, then generally it would be helpful to start looking within their personal documents first.

When a Will is found, you should check who the named executors are. An executor is a person who the deceased has chosen to deal with/administer their estate. Generally, a Grant of Probate will need to be obtained from the Probate Registry to enable you to administer the estate. The Grant has important details on it for example, it states the gross and net of the estate and it states the names of the people that can administer the estate. However, note that there are some circumstances in which a Grant of Probate may not be needed, for example when all assets in a deceased’s estate are held jointly with their spouse and they leave their entire estate to their spouse. A Grant of Probate will not necessarily be needed as the assets will pass to the spouse on the basis of survivorship.

If it appears that the deceased did not make a Will, then the Intestacy Rules in the UK apply to the estate. These rules determine who inherits what based on family connections. The rules do not take into account the closeness of your relationships of who is most in need. An application to the Probate Registry will be needed to obtain a Grant of Representation to deal with the estate. This document is similar to a Grant of Probate, however as there is no Will, the document is called a Grant of Representation. This application is made by the next of kin who can then administer the estate. They are known as the administrator.

Making a probate application 

An application to the probate registry can be made by you personally as an executor or administrator or you can obtain professional assistance. 

Risks of doing probate yourself

There are risks you should be aware of should you choose the DIY probate route. The risks increase with larger and more complicated estates and therefore you should consider the following before deciding to administer an estate without professional assistance.

As executor you will be personally liable for valuations of the estate you submit and the distributions you make between the beneficiaries. 

Any tax calculations must be made and paid by you as the executor within six months of the deceased’s death and if HMRC investigate the calculations and mistakes are found, fines and interest may be applied. 

A common mistake that executors and administrators make when applying for probate is incorrectly completing the probate and inheritance tax forms. Not completing these important documents accurately could result in the wrong calculation of the amount of Inheritance Tax that needs to be paid. Essentially, if the estate is not dealt with properly, the executor who administers the estate may be personally liable for unpaid debts to HMRC.

You may also not be aware of all the tax-free allowances which could be applicable to the estate and in turn too much tax could be paid.

How Moore Barlow can help

If you have any doubts about doing probate yourself and you would like professional assistance about how to deal with a deceased’s estate, please contact a member of our specialist probate lawyers

Our specialist probate lawyers provide expert legal advice and support for individuals and families dealing with the administration of wills, trusts and estates.