TOP TIPS for executors when dealing with a loved one’s estate.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, especially when coupled with going through the often complex process of sorting out their estate. To help ease this pressure and make this less daunting, Devonalds have produced some advice for executors to help guide them through the probate journey.
• Don’t bury your head in the sand – this can be easy to do when you are appointed as someone’s executor, as no one wants to think about losing a loved one. Unfortunately, by ignoring the matter you only make things harder for yourself in the long run. If possible, make sure you have the potentially difficult conversations early to ascertain exactly what you will need to sort out and where key documentation is located.
• Get organised – preparation is key when you are made an executor, so gather as much info as possible early on from the testator (the person whose estate you will be handling). This should include matters such as what bank accounts they hold, any investments they have, where their property deeds are held, any insurance policies they own etc. It’s also best to agree on where the paperwork will be kept so it can be easily found when needed.
• Register the death and arrange the funeral – You’ll need to register the death with the registrar within five days in Wales and will need a death certificate from the doctor to do this. Once this is done, you can then arrange a funeral. Whilst it is possible to do this yourself, some people use a funeral director to help ease the pressure. Some people may have a preference on how the ceremony is run – i.e. if it is religious or not, so make sure you ask this question when you’re running through the documents with the testator.
• Contact authorities – You’ll need to contact a number of government organisations such as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the local council to notify them of the death. They will then work out if any tax or benefits are payable, which will be claimed against the estate. It’s advisable to seek legal help for this, as penalties can be issued if calculations are wrong.
• Settle any debts – as the executor you’re in charge of settling any debts left by the testator, so make sure you contact any phone companies, utility companies, insurers, mortgage providers, landlords etc to notify them of the death. If the testator has a car you will need to return this to the DVLA to cancel any tax and to enable car ownership to be transferred.
• Apply for a grant of probate – you need to apply for ‘grant of probate’ to enable you to close down accounts and transfer assets. You can do this by going through the Probate Registry. If there is not a will in place, you will need to apply for ‘letters of administration’ instead. If this is the case, you will need to prove you are a spouse, close relative, child or parent to be able to do this.
• Don’t rush payments – don’t be pressurised into rushing through payments to the beneficiaries until you are 100% sure all bills and tax have been paid. All costs will need to be claimed against the estate funds, so it will be an inaccurate representation if you split this out too quickly.
• Don’t forget digital – These days people increasingly live their lives in the digital space, so you must remember to access online accounts too. These could be online banking sites, such as Paypal, sites like eBay, email and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
• Seek advice – being an executor can be a time consuming and daunting task, but remember you don’t have to go through the process alone. At Devonalds, we offer a range of different support options, as well as free first advice if ever you want to chat anything through.
Find out more call 01443 755189 for Free First Advice.