Settling the estate

After the grant has been received the personal representative applies for the release of all assets belonging to the person who has died, by sending a copy of the grant to each institution. As the money is received it should be placed in the ‘executorship account’

The assets may include arrears of pensions; the balances from the deceased person’s bank and building society accounts; proceeds from the sale of shares and property; tax refunds, etc. If the personal representative is not also the major beneficiary of the estate it may be advisable formally to advertise for creditors, in case a debt arises after the assets have been distributed. This is done by placing an advertisement in the London Gazette, at PO Box 7923, London SE1 5ZH, tel: 020 7394 4580 and in a newspaper covering the area in which the deceased last resided. The notice should include the name of the deceased, the date of death, and the name and address of the personal representative to whom all claims should be sent. A period of two months is normally allowed from the date of the advertisement for the submission of claims. Doing this protects the personal representative from personal responsibility.

You may be asked to complete an income tax return and if you are unsure about the deceased person’s sources of income you should ask the tax inspector for a copy of the deceased’s last tax return. When all assets have been received, any debts should be paid. If there is insufficient money in the estate to pay all the debts, a solicitor’s advice should be sought.

The personal representative is entitled to claim from the estate for ‘out of pocket’ expenses, stamp duty, copies of the grant, travel, etc, but not for time taken or for the work involved in administering the estate. Once all taxes and debts have been paid the estate can be distributed either according to the terms of the Will or the rules of intestacy.

A signed receipt should be obtained from each beneficiary, preferably before or at the same time as they receive their share or bequest (for example a painting or piece of jewellery), as this will form part of the estate accounts. The personal representative may need to transfer a house or flat into the name of a beneficiary. If the property is held as joint tenants a copy of the death certificate placed with the deeds will be sufficient. In other cases the exact procedure depends on whether the home is registered at the Land Registry, in which case there will be a land or charge certificate, or is unregistered property with a bundle of deeds including a conveyance.

With registered freehold property, after any mortgage has been redeemed, the charge certificate and form DS1 (showing that the mortgage has been repaid), Land Registry Form AS1 (from HMSO or law stationers) and fee (depending upon the value of the property) should be sent to the appropriate Land Registry which will issue a land certificate in the name of the beneficiary. If the mortgage is not going to be redeemed it will be necessary to write to the lender and seek their permission for the property to be transferred to the beneficiary. The title deeds will be in the lender’s possession.

If the property is leasehold, the procedure is the same as for freehold property but the freeholder should also be informed of the changes and a fee may be payable. If the property is unregistered, professional help may be required to make the application for first registration. Where there is a lease the landlord should be notified of the changes and may charge a fee. Details of the transfer of property should be noted on the reverse of the original grant. After distribution has been completed, the estate accounts should be prepared by the personal representative. These must be approved and signed by the personal representative and the main beneficiaries and then the residue (remainder) of the estate may be distributed, in accordance with the Will.