“My partner has passed away suddenly, and I’m at a loss to where to start when dealing with the legal aspects of his estate. Where do I begin?”
There are no words to express the emotions associated with the loss of a loved one. You and your family will likely be dealing with significant pain and grief.
I understand how it can be confusing where to start when dealing with estate planning and the legal aspects of death can only add to stress of the grief you’re experiencing.
However, the time period following the death of a loved one is a critical time from a legal perspective.
Find the Will
It is important to start by finding any legal documentation relating to estate planning your partner may have left. Hopefully they will have shared the basic aspects of his estate plan – including funeral and burial instructions – prior to their passing in the form of a Will.
A Will provides critical instructions regarding actions which must be taken when your partner passes away. Regardless of what verbal promises or instructions were given, properly drafted wills and trusts are the final expression of a decedent’s wishes.
If you are struggling to find the Will then you should contact your partners Solicitor who drafted the Will as they are likely to have a copy.
Administrating the Will
The person who is appointed in charge of your partners estate is called an ‘executor’. If this is not you then you must inform them of your partners passing as soon as possible.
I would suggest contacting a Solicitor before any actions in the Will are taken. This includes retitling assets, gifting items or closing any accounts or selling any assets. There are usually significant legal and financial ramifications associated with such activities.
If your partner left a Will you will understand what your partners wishes were. If you are the executor of their estate, you will need to apply for a ‘grant of probate’. However, this is only applicable if your partner left a Will.
If there is no Will, the law dictates who is entitled to apply. The rules broadly stipulate that the next of kin is entitled to apply for what is known as a ‘grant of letters of administration’ but it can sometimes be complicated working out who is classed as the next of kin in accordance with the legal provisions.
It’s important to remember that unmarried spouses do not automatically inherit an estate if there is no Will. There are many complicated factors to consider when dealing with ‘Intestacy rules’ therefore you should contact a Solicitor for legal help in this situation.
What is Probate?
You’ll need to know about probate if you’re the executor of a will.
Basically, probate involves a legal document that gives you the authority to deal with a loved one’s estate. This can be:
- A Grant of Probate (if they died with a will)
- Letters of Administration (if they died without a will)
If you are appointed an executor, you are responsible for dealing with the probate, and this involves:
- Gathering any assets, e.g. money left in bank accounts
- Paying any bills, including various taxes
- Distributing what’s left according to the will
There are many considerations to make when dealing with probate, including registering the death, tracking down the Will, dealing with documentation for grant of probate, dealing with inheritance tax, close down bank accounts, pay off debts, deal with the deceased’s life insurance documentation, have the estate valued and share out the remaining assets. And that’s just if the deceased had a Will.
Do I need Probate?
Yes, usually you’ll need a Grant of Probate or Letter of Administration to gain control of your loved one’s estate and ensure possessions are allocated accurately.
How do I apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?
You can either get in touch with the local Probate Registry, or apply through a legal professional like Howells – who are experts at handling probate and administration of estates.
A Solicitor can help with more than just administration duties, but also:
- Offer invaluable advice regarding the terms of the Will
- Provide advice and information to you regarding your responsibilities as an Executor
- Obtain valuations of the assets and liabilities in the estate
- Deal with any tax that is payable or eligible for a refund
- Deal with complicated estate left by someone who did not make a Will
- Challenge the validity of a Will if needed
- Help deal with complex arrangements in a Will, such as assets held in a trust
- Help if the Will contains any foreign assets
- Encashing the assets and paying any liabilities out of estate funds
- Distributing the estate
- Inheritance tax
Appointing a probate Solicitor, like myself, can make the process easier and take away some of the stress for you. Not only this, but make sure that you have the best and efficient outcome possible.
Written by Lindsey Rawson, Partner and Wills, Trusts & Probate specialist.
To discuss your specific situation with me, call our enquiry team and make an appointment. We offer fixed fees on most of our matters and flexible appointments to suit your needs. If you can’t make it into the office, we offer telephone appointments.
you can email Howells to make an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our website or call us:
Sheffield: 0114 249 66 66
Barnsley: 0122 680 51 90
Rotherham: 0170 936 40 00