The death of a loved one is something all of us will experience. As well as coping with our grief, there are also responsibilities upon those left behind, to register the death, make funeral arrangements and to attend to the administration of the deceased's Estate.
Firstly, it must be established whether the deceased left a Will. The administration of the Estate is carried out differently if there is no Will. A Will will always appoint an Executor - the person who will take the relevant steps including employing a Solicitor to assist in the administration. Where there is no Will, then only those who are entitled to inherit from the Estate are entitled to be appointed Executor. An application to the Sheriff Court for that appointment is required.
The extent of the deceased's Estate must be ascertained and, over a certain thresholds, and always in the case of heritable property, an application for confirmation to the Sheriff Court must be made. A complete list of the Deceased's assets requires to be listed in the confirmation application, along with details of liabilities. An Executor has very important responsibilities to ensure that the Estate is engathered in its entirety, and distributed to those lawfully entitled to inherit.
Where there is a Will, the deceased will have set out the distribution of the Estate. However, notwithstanding the terms of the Will, children and spouses continue to have a residual claims against the moveable Estate. It is the Executor's responsibility to advise children and spouses of this. Where there is no Will, the Estate will fall to be divided in accordance with the law of intestacy. The rules of succession were set down in 1964 and, essentially, the distribution follows the family tree in the order of spouse, children, siblings and parents followed by other blood relatives with a more distant connection.
An Executor requires to account to all beneficiaries and to keep a detailed record of his intromissions with the Estate which, again, should be produced to beneficiaries on request. Executors can obtain advice from the Sheriff Clerk's office at the local Sheriff Court for small Estates. With larger Estates and Estates involving heritable property, most Executors will seek the assistance of a Solicitor experienced in such work. It is important to ensure that any liabilities or debts are paid from the deceased's Estate and enquiries should be made of the Department of Work and Pensions as to whether or not there may be a repayment of benefits due. Failure to account to creditors or the DWP may render the Executor personally liable if the Estate has been distributed prematurely.
At Millen Solicitors. we offer an efficient and cost effective service, we provide regular updates, and liaise with beneficiaries. An Estate is normally wound up in around 6 months however large or complex estates can take significantly longer.