If someone dies they leave an estate behind. Their ‘balance sheet’ may be in debit or credit depending on how they managed their finances. Any debts should be settled before their heirs receive their shares. These are typical examples of what might appear on the deceased’s ‘books’.
Assets and Liabilities on the Balance Sheet
# Cash in hand, and money freely available from bank accounts
# Any money paid, or due from a life insurance policy in their name
# Any moneys owed to the deceased person at the time of death
# Any fixed property, shares or personal property they owned
# Any money the deceased owed at the time they passed away
If the deceased person nominated you as executor in their will, you can’t just go ahead and shell the assets out. One of the probate secrets people may not know is you may have to apply for an authority first
Another One of Probate Secrets: You Don’t Have To
It’s a generally accepted fact people can’t rule from the grave by forcing someone to do something. Citizens Advice confirms you don’t have to act as executor if you don’t want to. However, if you do it may be wise to apply for a probate.
This is a legal permission the UK Government gives you to act in good faith. However, if the deceased person did not leave a will behind to guide you, what do you do?
You May Be in Deep Waters If You Don’t Know These Probate Secrets
You could snooker yourself if you apply for a probate where there is no will. The law is quite specific in this regard. It says you must apply for letters of administration under any of these circumstances.
# There is no will or the will is ‘invalid’
# The will does not name any executor(s)
# No named executors are willing to act
You may not act as an executor under these conditions. You must apply for letters of administration if you take it on yourself to distribute an intestate estate. This option follows a different process from the probate secrets we shared earlier.
Things to Know Before You Apply to Become an Administrator
You may only apply to be an administrator if the deceased left all their assets to you. OR there is no administrator prepared to take it on. You may also apply in the capacity of next-of-kin if one of the following applies in this order of priority:
# You are the married / civil partner of the deceased
# You are a child of the person who died
# You are a grandchild of the person who died
# You are a parent of the person who died
# You are a sibling of the person who died
# You are a niece / nephew of the deceased
# You are another relative of the person who died
An unmarried partner or same sex partner not mentioned in a will may not apply for probate or act as an administrator. Partners – married or not – should therefore have wills appointing each other to avoid these burdens. You don’t need someone challenging you while mourning for your partner.