Administering a Will
When a person dies the nearest relative to the deceased should find out if there is a will. If there is no will click here.
A will is a legal document drawn up and signed in the presence of witnesses which states what should happen to a person's estate after their death. It often also includes wishes regarding the funeral and burial. For this reason it is as well to locate the will as soon as possible after death. To find the will try looking through personal papers, at the bank, with the deceased's solicitor and friends and relatives.
Once the will has been located the executors will need to be appointed. They are the people named in the will who will be responsible for dealing with everything owned by the person (the estate).
Sometimes there are problems with a will, for example the executors cannot be appointed for any particular reason or there is a dispute over the wishes of the deceased. If there are problems you may have to apply to Prove the Will and should seek legal advice from a solicitor or the Citizen's Advice Bureau.
Duties of The Executors
Please note that in Scotland when Probate Registry is refered to you will need to contact your local sheriff court commissary office instead, and a Grant of Probate is know as a Confirmation. You should also check with the Capital Taxes Office regarding inheritance tax and related issues.
1. Open a Personal Representative's bank account. This is used for the receipt of any monies due to the estate and to pay Inheritance Tax and Probate fees if applicable.
2. Inform all relevant people and organisations including relatives, people mentioned in the will, banks, building societies, local authorities, insurance companies, Inland Revenue and the Benefits Agency.
3. Arrange for a valuation of any property and its contents including jewellery, savings plans, trusts and life policies, then draw up a schedule of all the deceased's assets. This will be needed when applying for a Grant of Probate.
4. Draw up a schedule of debts that need to be paid from the estate including mortgages, bills, credit cards, loans and overdrafts.
5. Apply for a Grant of Probate. You can obtain Form PA1: Probate Application Form from your nearest Probate Registry or download it online from the website of the UK Court Service. You can also download form Form PA2: How to Obtain Probate which tells you how to complete the relevant forms.
6. Fill out any forms required by the Inland Revenue Capital Taxes Office so that it can be established whether Inheritance Tax is due (payable if the estate is worth over ?255,000 and due at 40% over the threshold). Call 0845 3020900 or visit the website of the Inland Revenue to download Form IHT205: Return of the Whole Estate to find out if the estate is "excepted" and Form IHT200 if Inheritance Tax is due.
7. Send the papers to the Probate Registry. Click here to search for Probate Registries and telephone numbers. You will need to send or take the completed forms to them along with the will, death certificate and relevant documentation from the Inland Revenue. Remember to copy all papers first and if posting send by recorded delivery.
8. An interview will need to be booked at the Probate Registry to swear the papers. Providing the estate is not too complicated only one interview will be needed and this normally happens within about 5-6 weeks after the papers and forms are received by them.
9. If Inheritance Tax is due the executor's account of the estate is passed to the Inland Revenue, the Grant of Probate will not be issued until any tax due is paid in full. This may mean that property will have to be sold to pay the Inheritance Tax. Banks will arrange loans for this purpose but the interest rates can be quite high.
10. When the Grant of Probate is issued copies will need to be sent to everyone who owes money to the estate so ensure you get enough copies when at the Probate Registry. The executors have a legal authority to pursue any debts owed to the estate.
11. Once the Grant of Probate has been granted the executors can divide the estate as per the instructions in the will. They will need to sign accounts showing who has received what and they must show that they acted in accordance with the terms of the will in case of any queries raised by family members. All documents must be stored safely for twelve years.
In the Absence of a Will...
Before assuming that there is no will you should take every possible step to find one. Look through personal papers, phone and write to solicitors, check with the bank, ask friends and relatives and apply to the Principal Registry (telephone 020 7947 7000) to see if the person has left their will there.
If you have exhausted all of these avenues and are certain that there is no will then the Rules of Intestacy set out who should administer the estate and who inherits what.
The closest living relative will be responsible for administering the will. This is according to the following order:
1. A spouse (they must still be legally married, not cohabiting or divorced)
2. Children of the deceased over 18 years of age (or their descendents if deceased)
3. Parents of the deceased.
4. Brothers or sisters with the same parents (then half brothers and sisters)
6. Aunts and Uncles (full blood first i.e. same mother and father, then half blood)
7. The State (referred to as the Crown) if there are no surviving relatives
The administrator acts much the same as an executor and will need to apply for Letters of Administration in the same way that they would apply for probate (see above for details).
When there is no will the estate (everything the person owned) is shared out according the Administration of Estates Act which sets out who will get what. Visit the website of the Community Legal Service for further information on Will and Probate.