Duties of a Personal Representative of an estate

When you lose someone close to you, you may be surprised by the volume of paperwork that needs to be completed to deal with that person’s estate.  The person responsible for dealing with the estate is the next of kin under the intestacy rules or an executor under the terms of a Will.  Increasingly more people are appointing family members rather than legal professionals to administer their estates and this can be quite daunting for the family member left to deal with everything.

If you find yourself having to administer an estate, you will need to consider your personal representative duties which are set out in statute.

Among them are dealing with the estate assets efficiently and keeping a detailed account of the assets and liabilities of the estate to show how the estate funds are being dealt with.

Most estates in England and Wales require a Grant of Representation which is the general term given to the court order providing the authority for the personal representative to deal with the person’s assets.

When someone dies and you are the Personal Representative one of the first steps is to check whether the estate you are dealing with requires a Grant.  The easiest way to do this is to check with the financial institutions whether or not they will require a Grant. 

A lot of the banks have raised their thresholds recently and so you may find that they will release the funds to you if you complete an indemnity form and provide them with proof of your identity.  Once funds are released to you, you will hold them on trust for the estate and should not make any distributions until all the estate liabilities have been established.  If the deceased owned a property, it is likely that a Grant of Representation will be required.  

You can apply for the Grant personally or you can instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf.  Before deciding whether or not to act you should consider:

  • The amount of time you have available per week.

Most estates take between 6-9 months to administer and that includes writing letters and making phone calls on a regular basis to obtain information.

  • How comfortable you feel with completing forms and understanding the process.

You will need to declare all the assets and liabilities of the estate to HM Revenue and Customs on the relevant tax form, self-assessments may be required to finalise the deceased’s income tax and claim forms will need to be completed to close down all of the bank accounts.

  • The level of accountability you feel comfortable with

If the estate is relatively straight-forward you may feel happy signing all the paperwork required to obtain the Grant and later on making sure that the estate is distributed correctly in accordance with either the Will or intestacy rules.  Some people prefer to instruct legal professionals on their behalf because it gives them peace of mind that things are being done properly and the responsibility of administering the estate shifts to the legal advisor.  

In addition to the duties set out above, personal representatives owe a duty of care to all of the beneficiaries (35(1) Trustee Act 2000).  This means that if their actions result in loss to a beneficiary they could be held personally liable to repay that loss.   For this reason, it is important that personal representatives make sure that all assets are safe-guarded (for example; by making sure the estate property is adequately insured) and that the estate administration is not unreasonably delayed.

The Probate Team at AMD Solicitors has extensive experience of all aspects of probate and intestacy whilst providing a personal and supportive service to all those involved.

For advice on administration of estates and all other private client issues please contact Sarah Burgess or another member of our team on 0117 962 1205, email probate@amdsolicitors.com or call into one of our four Bristol offices.

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This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

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