Step 2 - Is there a Will?
Finding the Will
If you are aware that the deceased has left a Will, it is important to locate the most recently dated, valid document. For a Will to be valid, it needs to have been signed and witnessed in a particular way, in order to comply with the law. The Will should be in writing, signed and dated by the person who has died and witnessed by two independent witnesses, who must not be benefiting from the Will.
If you are unsure of where the Will is held, we strongly recommend that you carry out a search with Will Registration companies to see if they have any details of a later Will. We recommend using Certainty – The National Will Register. They will search their own database as well as make local and national searches with Solicitors and Will Writers.
No Will: rules of intestacy
If someone dies without leaving a Will at all, or where the Will is invalid / cancelled, they are said to have died “intestate”. The rules of intestacy are followed to establish who can inherit from the estate, click here.
Who is entitled to act
If a valid Will has been found it will usually state who the deceased wanted to act as Executors. An administrator is appointed to carry out the wishes of someone who has died, where that person did not have a Will or the Executor(s) cannot or do not want to act.
Please note, Executors and Administrator cannot act if they are under 18 years old, if they have been declared bankrupt or are going though the process of bankruptcy (undischarged bankrupt).
Placing the executor statutory notices
As an Executor or Administrator, although legally you do not have to, it is strongly recommended that you advertise for any unknown creditors and / or beneficiaries to come forward. This will offer you protection; you can escape liability in the event an unknown creditor comes forward at a later date after you have paid out all of the money. If you do not place the advertisement and you have paid out the estate, then you may be expected to settle with the creditor from your own funds.
You can place this advert straight away. It is very straightforward and involves advertising in the London Gazette. Also, where the person who has died owned their own home, it is a good idea to advertise in their local paper.
The advertisement expires after 2 months and 1 day, after which time you are safe to distribute the estate, although it is advisable to wait 6 months from the date of death in the event of any claims being brought against the estate.
Opening an executor account
When dealing with the estate it is your responsibility to collect in all of the Assets and keep an accurate record of ALL monies paid in and out. It is advisable to open an Executor Account and, although it is unlikely you will receive any monies straight away, it is a good idea to open up the bank account as soon as possible so that you can pay in any monies you do receive. It is good practice to open an Executor Account regardless of the size of the estate and to arrange it with either your bank or the bank of the deceased’s.
It is important to keep accurate accounts of all monies coming in and leaving the estate at this stage and going forward. This information will be needed to produce the Estate Accounts, a copy of which will need to be sent to all beneficiaries for them to agree, before the estate can be distributed. Opening an Executor Account will help with this, as an electronic record will be kept of the income and outgoings, and enables you to evidence all of the activity correctly if required. For more information see Step 9.