A personal representative (PR) is the term used to describe the person or institution who has the responsibility of dealing with the administration of a deceased person’s estate. Where there is a valid Will in place, they are known as the executors. If there is no Will in place, then the laws of intestacy will dictate who is able to deal with the estate, known as administrators.
As solicitors specialising in Will drafting, probate and estate administration, NSS Legal Ltd can help you understand your duties as a PR as well as assist with the probate. This article will highlight some of the key responsibilities of PRs.
It is the duty of the PRs to establish the extent of the deceased’s estate, collect in the assets and settle outstanding debts and liabilities. This includes paying any inheritance tax which is due, other taxes and funeral expenses etc. Once completed, the PRs are then tasked with distributing the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will or the laws of intestacy. It is an important role which needs to be carefully executed by those entrusted with the estate administration. Failing to do this may lead to disgruntled beneficiaries making a claim personally against the PRs.
Arranging the Funeral
Whilst it is the legal responsibility of the PRs to deal with the funeral arrangements, more often than not the family of the deceased would like to at least have some input in this. The funeral is an expense of the estate and, as such, the PRs will need to ensure that there are sufficient funds in the estate to be able to settle this.
Valuing the Estate
This will include establishing what assets there are, if the deceased held any assets jointly with another party, the location of these assets and the values. The PRs have a legal responsibility to ensure that as well as correctly identifying the assets, they are properly valued. This may mean involving professionals, such as chartered surveyors, to provide formal valuations.
Debts can be as simple as an unpaid water bill or something which requires more thorough investigation such as an undocumented loan made to a friend or family member. In a similar way to the assets being valued, all debts and liabilities in existence as at the date of death need to be accounted for.
Notice to Unknown Creditors
As part of the investigation into the debts of the deceased, the PRs should think about the likelihood of there being unknown creditors or people who may wish to make a claim against the estate. The PRs can deal with this duty by placing statutory advertisements in the newspaper, which includes one in the London Gazette and where the deceased owned a property, a newspaper circulated in the locality of their home.
It is important to ensure that the PRs are able to account for the receipts and payments of the estate and to ensure that estate monies are not mixed with their own. PRs should think about opening up an Executors’ account as soon as it is practicable. This will also be useful when it comes to preparing the estate accounts, copies of which residuary beneficiaries are entitled to see.
Inheritance Tax Forms and Inheritance Tax payments
The PRs will need to ensure that the correct inheritance tax (IHT) form is prepared and where the estate is taxable, arrange for the payment of IHT or at least part of it. There are options available to PRs in respect of how this is funded and paid and NSS Legal can discuss this in more detail with you.
As well as IHT, there may be income tax and/or capital gains tax due from the estate.
Applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
The PRs may need to apply for a Grant of Probate (where there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (where there is no Will), which will provide the PRs with the legal authority to collect in, sell or transfer the estate assets.
Once the assets are collected, all the debts and liabilities are settled, the PRs will make the payments or transfer the assets to those entitled to receive these.
If you are reviewing your Wills and wish to discuss with NSS Legal Ltd the appointment of an Executor, how your beneficiaries should receive assets and other key provisions of your Will, read our article on Why You Should Use a Solicitor Over a Will Writer to understand the importance of using solicitors to draft a Will.