As a general rule of thumb you can’t just jump in and do what you believe is best. A deceased person’s estate (possessions) must first pay off their debts. The balance should be distributed (shared) according their wishes. It helps if they have a will of course. However, if they don’t its best to try to do what you believe is fair.
Get Inheritance Tax Sorted Before You Start
If your later husband’s estate (their property, money and belongings) is worth over £325,000 then there is inheritance tax due. If you suspect this is the case, then it’s best to stop by your local tax office and ask for advice. They will tell you what you have to do.
I’ve Heard People Talking about Probate. What’s That?
‘Probate’ is a legal process whereby the government grants you permission to share your husband’s assets. If your husband had left a will you could have applied for a ‘Grant of Probate’. However as they did not, you may need to ask for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’.
In both cases you receive a document confirming you have authority to deal with your husband’s property, belongings and money after settling any debt. This grant will enable you to access their financial assets, sort out their finances and transfer their estate to beneficiaries as they would have wished.
However, You Are Still Not Free to Do as You Wish
Even with a grant you are merely the executor (administrator) of your late husband’s estate. If you make a mistake, and a third party is out of pocket they could sue you for damages. It’s always best to ask someone you trust to watch over your shoulder.
You could also ask a solicitor to assist. You must in any case have a co-administrator if a child benefits from the will. This is a requirement under UK law and the government is strict about this.
General Rules for Grants of Representation
A ‘Grant of Representation’ is a blanket term for both grants of probate and grants of letters of administration. As a general rule of thumb you need one of these if:
- The estate is worth £10,000 or more (a change is before parliament)
- The estate includes stocks, shares and / or certain insurance policies
- The deceased owned property or land, or were ‘tenants in common’
Tenants in common hold individual, undivided ownership interests in a property. They have the right to transfer their ownership interest to third parties.
A bank will insist on seeing a grant of representation before transferring funds. You may however not need a grant if you and your husband owned everything jointly, and you can provide reasons why everything should pass automatically to you.
What Do I Do if People Start Making Claims on the Estate?
People may try this on especially if there is no will. As the married partner the law of succession states that everything belongs to you unless the will says otherwise.
However, there may be things your husband would have wanted to pass on to a close friend or family member. There could also be heirlooms that rightfully belong to the other side of the family.
The best advice we can give is to act fairly, and do what you honestly believe your husband would have wanted. Consider asking third part beneficiaries to sign a letter stating they have no further claims on the estate. This will help you bring the process to an end.