Dying Matters Awareness Week: Administering An Estate
- AuthorHelen Newson
During Dying Matters Awareness Week (13th to 19th May) we’re asking ‘Are we ready?’
Many people don't want to think about dying but it’s important to plan to make it easier for those you leave behind and ensure your wishes are carried out.
There are several ways in which a solicitor can assist in the planning process, many of which centre on the financial side of planning, but this can also cover healthcare decisions and the practicalities of dealing with an estate.
In a series of three articles, I will outline the ways we can help. The third is on administering an estate…
There is a wealth of information available nowadays as to how to go about administering the estate of a person who has died. The traditional role of the solicitor is still an important one; however, we very much tailor our service to what the client requires which can depend on a whole range of factors. Sometimes how much a person can take on simply boils down to a question of the time involved, or there may be complex factors involved such as issues relating to inheritance tax or problems between family members. Other people may simply have an aversion to paperwork!
You may be faced with having to administer a straightforward estate. The assets may be modest in value, and if there is no property involved you probably won’t need to obtain a grant of probate. However, if there are aspects you aren't sure about, or you just need a little reassurance that you are going in the right direction, solicitors can provide advice, often for a fixed fee, and can be on hand if you need any help along the way.
Obtaining a grant
A grant will be required from the Probate Registry in all cases where a person owned land in their sole name, and for assets of a certain value, often above £20,000 or higher although financial institutions differ as to the figure above which they require to see a grant to release funds. The grant is the legal document that proves to the outside world that the correct people are administering the estate and allows banks to release funds, a property to change hands, and so on.
We can deal with the legal paperwork to obtain a grant without becoming involved in the actual administration of the estate. This service can be useful for those who are quite happy to deal with banks and the like, and the division of cash amongst the beneficiaries, but would prefer a bit of support in dealing with legal paperwork. It can also sometimes streamline the process as the forms we use tend to be simpler than those that are used for a personal application. We would discuss with you whether it would be appropriate for us to act on this basis and what would be involved.
Administration of the estate
We can administer the whole of an estate, from start to finish. If so, we would:
- Register the death and arrange the funeral, if there are no family members or friends able to do this
- Take all immediate practical steps, eg securing a property, informing financial institutions, finalising pensions and so on
- Obtain the grant as noted above
- Handle the reporting and payment of inheritance tax if relevant
- Deal with any capital gains and income tax aspects of the estate
- Collect in all the assets and distribute those to the beneficiaries – this may involve liaising with stockbrokers, and agents in selling shares, or land for example
- Prepare a set of accounts and deal with the relevant income tax information required by beneficiaries
If the deceased’s family members are happy to handle certain aspects themselves, then we will discuss who will be dealing with which parts of the administration. For example, sometimes the family will handle all the practical aspects such as looking after an empty house, sorting out utility bills and the like, but we would oversee the financial side of things.
We can also act as joint or sole executors if a client does not have anyone close to them able to take on this role, or if there are any contentious aspects which mean it is sensible to appoint someone independent to administer an estate. There are cost implications involved which we will discuss with you.
For more information about administering an estate please contact our Wills & Estate Planning team on 01522 512123 (Lincoln) or 01636 673743 (Newark).