What are the duties and responsibilities of an estate administrator?
The person responsible for applying for Probate and administering the estate is called an Executor. The executor will have been appointed by the deceased person (“the testator”) in their Will.
When there isn’t a Will an Administrator will be appointed by the court. The court will choose an administrator based on their relationship to the deceased person. An administrator has no authority to act until they have been granted ‘Letters of Administration’ by the court.
An executor or administrator is responsible for locating and contacting all the beneficiaries of the will and for setting the testator’s financial affairs in order. This could involve selling property and shares, closing bank accounts and managing any other assets. They are responsible for making sure that any Inheritance Tax, Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax is paid and that all outstanding debts are paid before distributing the balance between the beneficiaries of the Will.
Acting as an executor or an administrator is a huge responsibility. Seeking the advice of a probate solicitor helps to ensure that all legal procedures have been correctly followed reducing the risk of personal liability if a mistake is made.
Can a Will be contested?
A Will can be contested for many reasons, some include:
Financial dependency. When a person who was financially dependent on the testator has not been provided for in the Will.
Forgery. There is reason to believe the testator’s signature or the entire Will has been forged.
Lack of due execution. Wills have to comply with specific formalities in order to be valid. A lack of due execution is a particular problem with DIY Wills. Wills must be executed in compliance with the Wills Act 1837. There are many aspects to consider, including whether the Will is in writing and has been signed by the testator or by another person in their presence. The signature must also have been witnessed by at least two other people who have counter-signed the Will.
Lack of knowledge and approval. When a Will has been properly executed it is assumed by the court that the testator had knowledge of the contents and approved of them. However, there are situations in which the court will require evidence to prove that the testator understood and approved their Will. For example, if they had physical or mental health impairment.
Lack of testamentary capacity. The testator must have been of “sound mind, memory and understanding” when making the Will.
Revocation. A testator can revoke their Will at any time during their lifetime. A Will can be revoked by executing a new Will, marrying or divorcing, or destroying the Will with the intention of revoking it. A revocation could be contested if the Will was revoked based on a false assumption.
Undue coercion or influence. This is when a testator has been pressured into writing a Will or into making changes to their Will that they wouldn’t otherwise have made.
What happens if there is not a will?
When a person dies without making a Will (“intestate”) their estate is shared out according to the rules of intestacy. The deceased’s married partner or civil partner will inherit the estate and their children may also inherit if the estate is valued at over £250,000. In some situations, other close relatives such as surviving parents or siblings may receive a share.
Managing an estate where there is no Will can be complicated and the process can take months to conclude, but an experienced probate solicitor can help the process to run more smoothly saving time and money. If it is thought that a Will may have been written but has not yet been found, a solicitor will be able to offer advice.
How our probate solicitors can help
At Lockings Solicitors our experienced solicitors manage all aspects of probate and estate administration, giving trusted advice during difficult times. Whether you would like to talk about making a Will, or you are an administrator or executor of an estate we can provide tailored legal support.
Our services include:
- Registering the death and arranging the funeral.
- Applying for Probate (“Grant of Probate”) or Administration (“Letters of Administration”).
- Establishing who the estate beneficiaries are and verifying their identities.
- Finding missing beneficiaries.
- Identifying the estate’s assets.
- Managing financial liabilities such as debts or taxes.
- Filling in tax returns and preparing accounts.
- Distributing the estate to beneficiaries.
We can also help if you are involved in a dispute. Our private client solicitors in Beverley, Hull and York provide legal expertise to those who are contesting a Will or defending a claim made by somebody else. It is our priority to make sure that a person’s legacy is handled fairly.
Whatever your circumstances, we will guide you through the legal process with sensitivity and care. Contact us today on 01482 300 200.