Wills and Estates - UK Government Guidelines
Dealing with the will and the estate
From the UK Government website:
What is a personal representative?
The personal representative (also known as the executor if they are named as such in the Will or, the administrator if there is no executor named or no Will), is responsible for ensuring that what is specified in the Will is carried out.
Has a Will been left?
Wherever the death occurred, it is important to find out if the person who has died left a Will and, if so, who the executor is. The Will states what should happen to the money, property and possessions (known as the estate) of the person who has died. The personal representative is responsible for paying any debts, taxes and expenses, including funeral expenses. They make the payments from the estate, not from their own income or savings. Only when these duties are finished can the personal representative distribute the rest of the estate.
What happens if no Will has been left?
If the person who has died did not leave a Will but had money or property, an application for legal authority to administer the estate must be made to the Probate Registry in your area. To find your local Registry, call 0870 241 0109 if you are in England or Wales. You can make these applications yourself, but you may wish to take advice from a solicitor. If you decide to use a solicitor, he or she will be able to tell you what is necessary and make the necessary
application on your behalf. It is a good idea to gather all your documents together, and make a note of questions before you visit the solicitor as this will save on time, money and effort.
If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you will be subject to different rules and regulations.
If you live in Scotland, you should contact the General Register Office for Scotland. They can be contacted on 0131 314 4243. Residents of Northern Ireland should contact the General Register Office (Northern Ireland). They can be contacted on 028 9025 2000.
The relevant office will be able to give you appropriate guidance.
If your relative has an estate overseas
Local law governs the administration of all property in a third country. In some countries, a court or public authority appoints the personal representative; in others, the beneficiaries may be automatically entitled to administer the property.
Where the deceased had little or no connection with the country where their property is situated, the local law may permit the personal representative, or the beneficiaries, to deal with the property.
Where this applies, we can notify relatives and known beneficiaries of the nature and extent of the local estate, give the names of English speaking local lawyers and assist, where we properly can in the event of problems arising.
Arrears of benefit
As the executor or administrator, you can claim any arrears of benefits still owing to the person who has died. There may be money due if the deceased was receiving or had recently claimed a benefit. Your local Department for Work and Pensions office will be able to give you a form to apply for any arrears. The procedure is the same whether benefit is payable at a Post Office or to an account. Arrears may sometimes be paid without the need to claim.
You should ask the Department for Work and Pensions office for more information, as soon as you can, if the person who died was awaiting the outcome of an appeal against a decision about a benefit; or if you think he or she may have been eligible for a benefit but did not claim it. You may be able to act on his or her behalf and arrears of benefit may be payable to you.
If the whole estate comes to less than £5,000 it may be possible for it to be released without proving the Will or obtaining letters of administration.
Normally debts, including funeral expenses, are paid out of the estate of the person who has died. The personal representative is responsible for paying all the debts of the estate. It is best to advertise for creditors (people to whom the person who has died owes money). This means putting a formal advertisement in a newspaper that has a local circulation. This should be after the grant of probate or administration has been made to you. Unknown creditors are given two months in which to make claims. If you do not advertise, you may be faced with personally paying claims made after the money has been shared out
Tell the creditors the name of the personal representative. This may mean telling people such as
the area telephone manager, and any company with whom the person who has died had a credit, hire purchase or rental agreement. One example of a claim that may arise is if the Department for Work and Pensions office finds they have paid too much Income Support and ask for the overpayment back.
National Insurance owed at the date of death is also a debt of the estate. If this is not paid, it may affect the benefit of the surviving spouse.
Distribution of property
When all the expenses, debts and taxes have been paid, the personal representative may then distribute anything left of the estate. If there is a Will, the personal representative will follow the instructions in the Will to carry out the wishes of the person who died.
Marriage and divorce
Marriage will cancel any Will made in most countries. After a divorce, a former spouse cannot receive anything left to them from the Will unless the Will clearly says otherwise. Divorce may also prevent the former spouse acting as a personal representative.
If there is no Will
If there is no Will, the personal representative can then distribute anything left of the estate. The personal representative shares out the estate according to rules that consider the rights of a surviving spouse, children, parents and other close blood relatives.
If there are no relatives
If there is no Will or entitled blood relatives, the Crown has a right to the whole of the estate. You should write to: The Treasury Solicitor’s Department (BV) One Kemble Street London WC2B 4TS
Claims on the estate
Whether you are related or not, you can apply for a share of the estate if you were being supported financially in any way by the person who died immediately before the death. If you qualify, you must apply within six months of the date on which probate or letters of administration are taken out. The court can allow later application in special circumstances.
You should take legal advice on how to do this.
Do not be rushed into parting with goods before taking legal advice. Hire purchase goods cannot be repossessed after a third of the purchase price has been paid unless the firm obtains a court order. Where a deceased partner has left a debt, you may need to check with an advice centre or a solicitor about any liability for the debt.
If the person who died was paying tax on income from investments or, as a self-employed person or, as an employee, notify the Tax Office about the death as soon as possible. This will enable the tax affairs of the person who has died to be settled.
Depending on the circumstances, this may involve paying some more tax or claiming a refund.
The particular Tax Office to contact will depend on the circumstances. For instance:
> if the person who died was an employee or had a pension from a former employer, the pay section of the employer or pension organisation will know the deceased’s Tax Office
> if the person who died was self-employed, contact the Tax Office nearest to the place of business
> if the person who died was unemployed, or retired without a pension from a former employer, contact the Tax Office nearest to the home address.
You can find more information by contacting your local office and asking for a copy of their leaflet: ‘What to do about tax when someone dies’.