How to settle deceased's Estate

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When someone dies, there needs to be a person in charge of sorting out the deceased’s Estate.  Property, money and debts, collectively known as their Estate. It’s not quite a straightforward as just handing out all their belongings, even if they have left a Will.

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Lexikin

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Here’s what you need to know about dealing with someone’s estate after they have died.

Who should deal with the deceased’s estate?

The question of who should deal with the practicalities of breaking up the deceased’s Estate will usually be resolved within the Will. If a Will was left, then usually an Executor is named within it. This Executor will need to apply for something called a ‘grant of representation’ at the local Probate Registry. This will assess the validity of the Will, as well as their claim as Executor.

If no Will was left, then the rules of intestacy come into play. These rules are designed to ensure the closest surviving relatives of the deceased inherit their estate, even if there was no Will written. Married partners will usually inherit the bulk of the Estate, with a portion being divided up between any children or grandchildren. If the partner has already passed, then the children will inherit the entirety of the deceased’s Estate, divided equally between them.

If there was no Will, or the Will is deemed invalid, then the person wishing to deal with the Estate will need to apply for ‘letters of administration’ at the local Probate Registry. If there are no surviving close relatives at all, then the deceased’s Estate passes to the Crown.

What needs to be done?

If you have found yourself Executor on a loved one’s Estate, then you’ll need to be prepared for a fairly long, drawn out process. Here’s what you need to do:

• Apply for a grant of representation with your local Probate Registry. This gives you the right to access the deceased person’s assets.
• Notify all relevant organisations. In particular, remember to notify the tax office as there may be tax due or even credit. Also, call the government office who were paying their benefits to avoid complicated over payments that then need to be paid back.
• Identify all the deceased person’s assets, including property, investments, savings, possessions, insurance policies and pensions. Remember to take off any money owned by the person who died, and to add in anything that is owed to their Estate by other parties.
• Sending the death certificate to financial organisations. You can ask the banks and other financial institutions who dealt with the dead person to freeze all the accounts, so that no money can be taken out without the correct authorisation. You can also ask them to confirm the value of all accounts held with them by the deceased.
• Fill in an inheritance tax form. Even if your valuation of the Estate suggests that no tax is owing, you will still need to complete the form. The current threshold (2016/17) is £325,000, so if it is below this value, it will be an excepted Estate, therefore you only need fill in the Return of Estate Information form. Over this value, and you should complete a full inheritance tax form.
• Pay any inheritance tax due. Your form will go to the Probate Registry and to HMRC, which will then contact you with an amount to pay. This needs to be paid up front before any further distribution of the Estate can take place.
• Swear an oath. You’ll need to go along inn person to the Probate venue or to a solicitor’s office to swear an oath. Once you’ve done this your grant of representation should be sent to you in the post.
• Pay their debts: Once you have access to their banks and accounts, it is your responsibility to settle all their debts before distributing their assets as per their wishes.

It might seem like a long and daunting process, but fear not, because there is a lot of useful information and support out there. You can appoint a solicitor to handle all of this on your behalf, but this could end up being expensive and would eat into your inheritance. You can simplify many steps of the above for your family by Signing Up to Lexikin and using our online Estate services and encourage your loved ones to do the same.

If you can, try to do as much as you can by yourself through Lexikin. You can always pass forms to your solicitor to check, or refer the case to them if you get stuck along the way.

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