Administering the estate of someone who has passed away is known as probate.
Detailed paperwork, extensive time and expertise are required to complete the process. When it is left to people with little to no experience, it is likely that issues can arise which can be costly.
By instructing the support of an experienced legal professional in estate administration, you can be safe in the knowledge that probate is handled according to the strict guidance outlined in the law. Probate involves handling any money, property, and possessions they had at the time of their death, settling any outstanding debts, collecting owed monies, and dividing the estate among the beneficiaries (people that will inherit).
An executor is responsible for a deceased person’s estate; this person is usually nominated in the Will. Where an executor has not been named in a Will, an administrator will be appointed according to the rules of intestacy. Executors and administrators are known as ‘personal representatives’ (PRs).
In this article, Jackson Longe’s specialist probate solicitors explore some frequently asked questions about the process.
What should I consider before distributing assets in a Will?
Beneficiaries frequently pressure executors to divide an estate’s assets as quickly as possible. Giving cash and other belongings before the assets have been collected and the required legal documentation completed can have serious consequences.
It may be challenging to keep track of who owns what, and it can also be unpredictable how that initial financial loss might impact the allocation of the remaining cash. A PR would be held personally responsible if unanticipated expenses or liabilities arise at a later date and there is insufficient finances in the estate to satisfy the charges.
Appointing a solicitor to help administrate an estate can limit personal liability. Personal representatives are entitled to appoint a legal professional to help them and pay these costs for the estate.
Why is record-keeping necessary for probate?
As part of their legal responsibilities, executors must provide proof of every financial transaction made to and from the estate. This involves providing documentation attesting to the beneficiaries’ receipt of their inheritance and documents attesting to the payments of debts and any expenses incurred in administering the estate.
Even though it may feel trivial, failing to maintain a thorough record of every financial transaction – no matter how small – can result in serious problems.
What guidance should I follow when locating beneficiaries?
Specific Wills outline payments to beneficiary groups rather than naming individuals separately, such as ‘my grandchildren’. An executor must make every effort to locate all beneficiaries. If an executor fails to locate all beneficiaries, they may be held personally accountable for the loss.
A solicitor can assist in clarifying what constitutes ‘all reasonable steps’ when locating beneficiaries.
How do I value an estate?
One of the most frequent mistakes made in estate administration is to inaccurately value the different assets that comprise an estate. Outdated or estimated valuations can lead to beneficiaries missing out and can also affect the amount of inheritance tax paid.
Since inheritance tax is a complicated area of law, specialist legal advice is essential. Any error surrounding taxes could mean implications that lead to trouble with HMRC.
How do I ensure that I follow the contents of a Will?
Ensuring the PR(s) find the deceased’s most recent, legitimate Will is the first stage in the probate process.
Many people update their Will throughout their lifetime and may keep specific instructions regarding the most up-to-date version private.
PRs who execute probate based on an invalid or inaccurate Will risk mishandling the estate’s distribution, which may lead to future legal issues.
Similarly, misreading a Will’s contents can have expensive consequences. Specific terms and legal jargon are frequently used in Wills, which can lead to misunderstandings by laypeople.
Ambiguity and uncertainty about a Will’s contents can be further exacerbated by the inclusion of codicils (amendments to the Will), unclear instructions and unforeseen circumstances, such as the death of a beneficiary.
If you are unsure about the contents of a Will, it is important to seek clarification from a solicitor at the earliest opportunity. Early professional legal intervention could save considerable time and money if something needs to be rectified later.
Probate Solicitors Richmond
Our team of experienced probate solicitors at Jackson Longe can provide comprehensive assistance with all probate matters.
We work closely with you, offering professional legal guidance and addressing inquiries you may have. To speak to our specialists today, please call 0208 332 2069, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out this enquiry form.