After someone dies, their executor or administrator will be responsible for finalising their financial affairs.
This involves collecting all of their assets and belongings and either selling them or transferring them in accordance with their Will or, if they have not left a Will, the Rules of Intestacy.
Making a full list of the deceased’s assets will help you value the estate and manage the winding-up process. You will need to do some detective work to try and find all of the bank accounts, life insurance policies, shares, property and valuable items such as cars, art or jewellery.
Calculate and pay Inheritance Tax
Once you know what assets the deceased owned, you should value them. This may involve writing to insurance companies to ask the value of policies and valuing shares and expensive possessions.
You will also need to find out how much the deceased owed, for example in respect of mortgages, credit cards, utility bills and other debts.
Finally, you need to ascertain how much the deceased gave away in gifts over the last seven years of their life, as once this amount goes over a certain level, Inheritance Tax may be payable on the gift.
Once you have these figures, you can work out the approximate amount of the net estate and use this to calculate the amount of Inheritance Tax, if any, that will be payable. Calculating Inheritance Tax is not always straightforward, and you may need to seek professional help in establishing exactly how much is owed.
Apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
Once you have paid any Inheritance Tax that is due, you can apply for the Grant of Probate or, if the deceased did not leave a Will, the Grant of Letters of Administration. This will give you the legal authority to deal with the estate administration.
Collect in assets
Once you have the Grant, you can send it to the various asset holders such as banks and building societies and ask them to close accounts. If the deceased owned a property, this can be cleared and sold.
Pay debts and other liabilities
At the same time, all of the deceased’s debts should be paid and receipts obtained confirming payment has been made in full.
Prepare estate accounts
The executor or administrator is also required to produce detailed estate accounts setting out all of the transactions that have taken place.
Distribute the estate
During the course of the administration, it will be necessary to identify and locate all of the beneficiaries. Once this has been done and the administration completed, the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries named in the Will or who are entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. An executor should arrange bankruptcy searches on all beneficiaries.
This information is for guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking full legal advice on specific facts and circumstances.