When someone dies leaving a Will, it will be clear who is named as the Executor and who the beneficiaries of the estate are. When someone dies without a Will, they are said to die ‘intestate’. In these circumstances, strict legal rules determine who is entitled to administer the estate and who the beneficiaries of the estate are. Our probate solicitors in Essex and London have significant experience dealing with intestacies.
When someone administers an intestate estate they are legally known as an administrator. Whether a person is acting as an Executor or as an administrator their duties, responsibilities and potential personal liabilities are the same.
An administrator will be required to carry out some or all of the following tasks:
Arrange the funeral
Accurately establish the value of the estate and any estate liabilities
Arrange the payment of any Inheritance Tax and claim any available tax reliefs
Apply to the Probate Registry for Letters of Administration
Collect in the estate assets
Settle the deceased’s income tax and capital gain tax liabilities up to the date of death
Settle all estate liabilities and administration expenses
Settle any post death estate income tax and capital gains tax liabilities
Prepare estate accounts
Establish the identities and whereabouts of the beneficiaries
Distribute the estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy
Set up any Trusts that arises as a result of the intestacy
An administrator should be aware of the potential personal liability that goes with their appointment and the legal protection available. Failure to act properly could result in the administrator being personally liable to:
Pay the deceased’s debts (including unknown debts)
Pay a claimant who successfully claims a share of the estate following a challenge to the terms of the Will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975
Pay HMRC penalties and interest
Pay any beneficiary who has not received the correct amount from the estate
Compensate the beneficiaries for any financial loss to the estate as a result of their own negligence
An essential part of an administrator’s role is to ensure that the estate is distributed to the correct beneficiaries in the correct shares. Sometimes it will not be obvious who the beneficiaries are and specialist legal advice may be required to ensure that an administrator distributes an estate correctly. As part of this process, it may be necessary to instruct a specialist genealogist to trace the family and obtain specialist loss beneficiary insurance to protect the administrator from any losses that arise as a result of any incorrect distribution.
Our probate solicitors recognise that acting as a lay administrator often means dealing with complex and unfamiliar legal issues. It is essential for an administrator to be fully aware of their legal obligations and the potential personal liability of not administrating an estate properly. If an administrator needs legal advice, it is important it is taken as soon as possible. Pinney Talfourd offers whatever level of assistance an administrator may require. This can range from a one-off consultation with an administrator, to fully administering an estate on their behalf.
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