What is estate administration?

By Laura Brydon, Head of the Wills, Trusts & Probate Department

Estate administration is the process of dealing with a person’s legal and financial affairs after they have died.

Whether or not a Will has been made by the deceased person, the administration process MUST be observed after every death.

It includes the settlement of any debts/liabilities and the distribution of any remaining assets to relevant benefactors – including:

  • Property
  • Personal possessions
  • Money
  • Stocks and Shares
  • Life Insurance
  • Pensions

What does being an Executor or Administrator mean?

Whether you have been named as an Executor in a Will or you are appointed to act as Administrator of an estate of someone who has not made a Will, the role is not one you should take lightly.

By Law, you are legally and financially responsible for administering the deceased person’s estate. This can sometimes prove complex as you may need to resolve complicated legal and Tax affairs, including settling any outstanding debts/liabilities and Taxes such as Inheritance Tax, Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

The administration of an estate may require a ‘Grant of Probate’ (if there is a Will) or a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ (if there is not a Will) to be applied for.  The Grant is issued by the Probate Registry Court and authorises the Executor/Administrator to deal with the deceased’s estate.  The value and type of assets held by an individual will dictate whether a Grant is required.  It is possible for some estates to be administered without a Grant.

If you have been appointed as an Executor/Administrator, you may want to instruct a legal professional to conduct the Estate Administration on your behalf.

You do NOT need a Solicitor to carry out Estate Administration, but you might choose this option if you are not confident carrying out the role on your own, or if you want the convenience of a professional handling everything for you.

At Longden, Walker & Renney Solicitors, we successfully manage hundreds of Estate Administrations and Grant Applications every year. Each one requiring a unique and sympathetic approach.

Our involvement usually depends on how much involvement the Executors/Administrators wish to have during the Estate Administration process.  However, even where we are instructed to administer the estate on behalf of the Executors/Administrators, we simply offer our guidance and expertise with the Executors/Administrators remaining in control.

As proud members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), we make it our mission to keep you informed at every step and our experts are always available to offer assistance and advice.

Should you wish to discuss any matters relating to the complex area of Probate, please call us to arrange a suitable meeting, either in person or via telephone or video call.

What does Estate Administration involve?

The death of a loved one is often a delicate and distressing time.

When we oversee an Estate Administration, your case is handled by a dedicated Probate Solicitor/Paralegal. To alleviate some of the stress, we keep you updated about progress at the relevant stages in the administration process and answer any questions you may have.

Whether the deceased left a valid Will or not, the administration of an estate follows a relatively standard process:

Gather paperwork & information for Inheritance Tax Return

We write to all creditors and financial institutions who may have information relating to the deceased’s assets and liabilities – including HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions, Banks, Building Societies, Accountants, Financial Advisers, Life Insurance and Pension companies, to name but a few.  We also organise property and asset valuations, if required.

Where Executors/Administrators may be unsure of the assets and liabilities in the estate a Financial Asset Search can be conducted and Creditors Notice placed in the local paper and London Gazette.

We also enquire with the Executors/Administrators and family members as to whether any lifetime gifts have been made in the 7 years before the date of death which were in excess of the annual allowance, as such gifts may need to be included in the valuation of the estate and  could influence the Inheritance Tax position.

Apply for Grant of Probate / Letters of Administration

We prepare all the relevant Probate and Tax Forms on behalf of the Executors/Administrators and ensure that any additional allowances to which the deceased person’s estate is entitled are correctly claimed.

It currently takes between 12-16 weeks for the Probate Registry to process applications and issue the Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration.

Some assets cannot be dealt with without a Grant, but banks will allow the Funeral Account to be settled directly from the deceased’s account(s) and some organisations will release funds so Inheritance Tax can be paid, if necessary.

If applicable, Inheritance Tax is required to be paid by the end of the sixth month following date of death.  If it is not, interest will become payable on the outstanding amount at a daily rate.

Pay debts, collect assets and distribute

If we have been instructed to deal with the full administration on the Executors/Administrators’ behalf, once we have received the Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration we send a Court-sealed copy to the relevant organisations to close the deceased’s accounts and collect funds and sell assets or transfer assets into the name of the Beneficiaries.

Before distributing assets, we ensure that any debts/liabilities (including funeral expenses and any general administration costs) and any Taxes are settled.

If a family home needs to be sold, we can liaise with Estate Agents and Clearance Companies etc on the Executors/Administrators’ behalf.  Our Conveyancing Department can provide a quotation in relation to the property sale, should the Executors/Administrators wish to instruct them to deal with the sale on their behalf.

Complete the Estate Administration

Once the debts/liabilities have been settled and the assets realised, we issue Final Estate Accounts to the Executors/Administrators for approval.  Once approved by the Executors/Administrators we issue a copy of the Accounts to the Beneficiaries for approval.  Once approved by all parties, final distributions will be made to the Beneficiaries.

Benefit from our knowledge and expertise

In our experience, Estate Administration is not something you should enter into lightly.

Whilst the information in this article is designed to be helpful, it should not be considered as any form of legal advice and we would recommend speaking to a Solicitor before making any decisions about how to proceed.

Having gained years of experience, our Probate Solicitors regularly help to resolve complex issues surrounding the administration of Estates – both where there is a Will and where the deceased died Intestate, without a Will.

If you would like us to assist you, or provide professional help or support, please feel free to contact us for a free and informal discussion.

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