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The Great Hunt: Help others if you've been an executor of a will

edited 28 March 2017 at 10:58AM in Deaths, Funerals & Probate
103 replies 26K views


  • BrowntoaBrowntoa Forumite, Board Guide
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    LPA ceases at date of death. If you have been taking control of finances then it makes it easier to know which institutions to contact after a death.

    forgot that , thank you
    Links in my signature currently broken
    I'm the Board Guide of the ,Telephones, Pensions , Shop Don't drop ,over 50's , Boost your income and Discount Code boards which means I volunteer to help get your forum questions answered and keep the forum runnning smoothly .However, please remember, board guides don't read every post. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post please report it to [email protected] Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.[
  • Rosie1980Rosie1980 Forumite
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    I have been executor twice, neither time have I used a solicitor, except to swear the oath and sell a house (it was an unregistered title so there was no way I was going to do that DIY).

    I found doing probate helped me deal with the death as it gave me something positive to do.

    This book was really useful. Some of the figures are a bit out of date but it gives you an overall picture and some useful template letters. The website is really helpful too.

    I created a spreadsheet so I could easily keep track of who I'd contacted and what stage I was at.

    Since doing probate I have also put my own affairs in order even more than they were. So now I have a spreadsheet of my own itemising the accounts I hold and a rough amount of how much is in them - I've pretty much done probate for my executor:rotfl:

    Definitely have more than one executor in the Will and not a solicitor. I would however recommend that if you and the other exector(s) trust one another, whoever it going to take on the letter writing etc is the only one who goes ahead to get Grant of Probate, the other can still be involved it just means only one signature every time you write a letter rather than having to send everything round to everyone to be signed before it can be sent.

    It's not hard, it takes time but then those I know that have used a solicitor still had to do a lot of the leg work and the solicitor got paid to do the easy stuff! It's also a lot quicker to do yourself.
  • LintonLinton Forumite
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    colinslyne wrote: »
    Do NOT use a solicitor when applying for probate!!! Too many people believe that a solicitor is necessary when applying for a grant of probate, but it easy to do it yourself. A solicitor will take around £1000 for simply filling in a form and posting it to the local Probate office, whereas you can do it for £115. Another rip off by solicitors!

    If you have a small/simple estate yes. If not use a solicitor - in our case with large amounts in gifts and an estate well above the IHT threshold his detailed knowledge of how the IHT rules operate saved £1000s. But solicitors fees in such circumstances can be a lot more than £1000. 1%-2% of the estate is usual.

    On the negative side, more than 1 year after the death we are still waiting for a final distribution - solicitors can be extremely slow.
  • I'd echo the earlier plea for recognition of the different situation under Scot's Law where we need to seek "confirmation" rather than probate. The Scottish Government publishes an excellent guide "What to do after a death in Scotland ... practical advice for times of bereavement" which I found invaluable when dealing with my husband's death. Also a notebook and spreadsheet to keep everything organised.
    I managed our money and, like others have said, knowing exactly what accounts he had, with which institutions and what the account numbers were etc, meant I was able to hand of all the necessary info to the solicitor so that minimised their work and reduced their fees.
    One surprise was that our solicitor had never heard of the inherited ISA allowance [ISA assets can now be passed on to spouses or civil partners and retain their tax-friendly status] so I handled that aspect myself.
    My husband and I had already discussed our wishes in broad terms so that also made it easier to put together the funeral arrangements and allowed the family to draw comfort from knowing we were carrying out his wishes. We chose not to have a pre-paid funeral plan but we had already purchased our cemetery plot and had the headstone erected [bought in a Sale too!] so there's a lot you can do to reduce the work and make it easier for whoever is tidying up after your death.
  • King_Drax_IKing_Drax_I Forumite
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    mhansen wrote: »
    Regarding wills,
    It's a sensitive issue but if your partner maybe suffering from dementia, it would be advisable
    To assist with making sure the will is correct and that there is note more than 1 will .
    It is indeed a sensitive issue, and if your partner (or whoever you are going to be executor for) is still alive and also sufficiently compos mentis, it might be an idea to get a Lasting Power of Attorney too. There are two: one to manage financial decisions, and one for health and welfare decisions. I have both for both my parents, who are both a bit doolally, and it gives great peace of mind.
  • LancsAmbassadorLancsAmbassador Forumite
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    I and another family member were the executors of a parent's will. At the time, I was living outside the UK and could only visit monthly, so for the convenience of my fellow executor, I agreed to let them change the solicitor from the one designated in the will to their own ("Nearby, knows me").
    Unlike the designated solicitor, the replacement knew nothing of the deceased and their (extensive) financial affairs. This resulted in me having to write a long seies of replies to incorrect asset valuations pointing out errors and omissions until one (still incomplete after 2 yrs) could be agreed.
    If the deceased has had long-term dealings with the solicitor nominated in the will, stick with them!
  • sheilaoksheilaok Forumite
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    Have applied and completed 3 now. Found it fairly easy. As has been said get multiple death certificates at first opportunity as dearer if left.
    Also I think it's a good idea to get LPA for health and welfare as well as finance. ( 2 separate forms) these can be completed on line.
  • sheilaoksheilaok Forumite
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    It is indeed a sensitive issue, and if your partner (or whoever you are going to be executor for) is still alive and also sufficiently compos mentis, it might be an idea to get a Lasting Power of Attorney too. There are two: one to manage financial decisions, and one for health and welfare decisions. I have both for both my parents, who are both a bit doolally, and it gives great peace of mind.

    And it's a good idea to get one for yourself as well. I have and my spouse.
  • AquamanAquaman Forumite
    2 Posts
    I had a relatively simple will to deal with, but the sums involved far exceeded the probate thresholds. Nevertheless, I received sound advice from a solicitor to check with each financial institution involved to see whether they required a grant of probate to transfer assets. In each case, even with one sum exceeding £200k, it was possible to make the necessary transfers from bank accounts using a death certificate and a copy of the will. Much form filling saved at a difficult time.
  • edited 29 March 2017 at 3:37PM
    King_Drax_IKing_Drax_I Forumite
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    edited 29 March 2017 at 3:37PM
    I administered my late wife's estate, and although it was simple - she left everything to me - there were still some things I would like to share.

    First up, probate was not an issue as I was the sole beneficiary and most of my wife's accounts were in joint names.

    She had one account which was hers solely, and that was an ISA with the Coventry Building Society. They wanted a certified copy of the Will before they would release her money to me; I managed to get a certified copy due to a really generous local solicitor who did the whole thing for a tenner cash in hand, rather than a fiver per page (would have been £20-£25)

    Banks where we had joint accounts were perfectly happy to change the account name to my sole name on presentation of the death certificate.

    I echo the ideas of many former contributors here - get a good few death certificates cheaply while you can (they were £4.00 each) - I got seven. Everyone wants to see an original (actually, they are certified copies that you pay for; the original is in the local registry books). Also there is the 'Tell Us Once' service where they tell DVLA UK Passports and other official bodies that the person has died. They do things like cancel library tickets and such. Your local council's website should give details of what to bring in terms of documents.

    I found it helpful to have a set of five or six simple card folders, one for benefits, one for legal stuff, one for copies of the death certificate, one for bank correspondence, one for the funeral arrangements. I also found that keeping myself busy with estate administration helped me deal with the grief more easily - if it can ever be easier...I also created an aide-memoire document; a simple table saying where I had sent various documents, when they were sent, and the postage method employed (tracked, standard post etc). Also I added a column for the date the document was returned to me. This enabled me to keep track of who had which death certificate (each one carries a unique number) and other various documents, and whether they had been returned yet or not.

    My wife's funeral arrangements were handled beautifully by my local Co-Operative funeral service. The reason I mention this is that they offer an all-in, fixed-price legal service, which I did not avail myself of, but also there is a free single no-obligation call that they make for you where they will discuss your legal requirements and tell you what you need even if you don't go with their service. It turned out that I did not need legal help except for that Will certification mentioned above. The Co-Op legal service lady who rang was lovely and really helpful. She told me about other things I could get too, for example, there is a series of state benefits that can help towards the cost of the funeral (Bereavement Payment), also a bereavement allowance if the deceased was younger than a certain age. This is paid for a year after the death. I get the benefit called 'Widowed Parent's Allowance' because my wife was young when she died, she had paid sufficient NI contributions, and my daughter is still at school. However, Bereavement Benefit is an 'overlapping benefit' so if you get Carer's Allowance as well, that gets stopped while you are still on Bereavement Benefit. The benefits are also taxable.

    This isn't directly linked to wills and estates, but I found out about it because I was administering the estate: I found that because my daughter is disabled, we are entitled to a council tax disregard. And, as I am her carer, I get a disregard too. So we pay half council tax as long as she is still in school. If you are in similar circumstances, or you are now the sole occupier of your property, this may apply to you as well.

    I had to go part-time at work following my wife's death. This meant that, as I had a daughter still in school, I got Working Family Tax Credits, along with an NHS medical help card (free prescriptions, eye tests, help towards glasses, free dental treatment).

    It is always worth checking all your documents to see if the deceased had any life insurance you've forgotten about. Also, contact the deceased's company pension scheme; my wife was a teacher and she was with 'Teachers' Pensions'. This meant that I got a large lump sum (about £15,000) and also a small monthly pension for the rest of my life (about £160pm after tax). My daughter also gets a small pension as a dependant child as long as she is in school. This is about £100pm. Of course this will vary from scheme to scheme but it's worth checking up on.

    I found it easy to change the 'named person' receiving Child Benefit (it had been my wife, changed it to me); the staff there were very sympathetic and made the process easy. Same for the DWP, when I asked to be the person who handles my daughter's PIP communications. They did have to visit, but the chap was very understanding and it was really just a formality.

    Regarding mortgages and things, we were fortunate (if you can call it that) in that we had our mortgage under endowment policies, including critical illness cover. Actually one of them had Critical Illness, the other had a Disability Waiver. But when we contacted that latter provider and told them my wife had a terminal diagnosis, they were very flexible and said, Well, she's disabled, yes, but she will never work again, so we are going to pay up as if it's Critical Illness (which we were not actually covered for). The point I am making here is that it's always a good idea to contact your providers when you get your terrible news, and see what they have to offer in terms of help. You may be pleasantly surprised. So our mortgage was paid off and we didn't have to worry about losing our house while fighting the cancer.

    I also contacted the Land Registry, after my wife's death, to change the registration of my house to my sole name. There can be problems with this if there are certain things about the property, something to do with Tenure or something. Google "Removal of Deceased Owner's Name" land registry' to find the webpage; they say on there that they need to see probate, but I rang them up and asked them about it and they said I didn't need probate, although I can't remember why that was. Maybe it was because we were joint owners and I was the sole beneficiary. Everything went smoothly there too.

    This might sound odd too but whenever you talk to people following a bereavement, it helps to have a stock answer for their condolences. Most people on helplines or Customer Service will offer their condolences, and simply saying 'It's all right' doesn't quite cut it. It's not all right at all! I appreciated their concern, though, so I just resorted to saying 'Thank you, that's very kind of you' or something like that, to acknowledge their condolences[FONT=&quot]. I am Autistic so I needed this in place to help me cope with the social interaction element, which I find difficult.
    I also re-wrote my will. Since my wife and I had 'mirror wills', my will became more or less obsolete - still better than nothing, but not what I wanted any more - and so I got it re-done. By a solicitor; I wanted it done properly. Fortunately, my Union offer a low-cost Wills service, so I got it done for just over £30. Money well spent in my opinion.

    Also like some of the previous contributors on here, I decided to set my own affairs in order...because I do a lot of Stoozing, being a real MoneySavingExpert geek, I drew up a list of my ten or so bank accounts that are almost all for generating stoozing interest. I gave account numbers, names and sort codes, passwords and usernames, approximate contents, and the reason the account exists. This was all done in a Word document which I then placed in an encrypted drive on my laptop. My filing cabinet contains a drawer with my Will and my master password for my laptop secure drive, so that my executors can access these documents. My executors know where that drawer is. I also set up a list of instructions for my executors, detailing things like how my wife leaving everything to me meant that I 'inherit' her Inheritance Tax (IHT) threshold, meaning that my executors would not have to worry about IHT as my estate, combined with hers, will not be greater than the combined IHT threshold. This is worth knowing. If your partner dies and leaves everything to you, you also inherit their IHT threshold. More about this on the website.

    Note: this means that you MUST keep your partner's Will, even once you have executed the Estate, as evidence that they left everything to you. If they didn't leave everything to you, then the value of gifts made to others is deducted from the threshold. Again, the Inland Revenue people can explain this better on their website.

    My Instructions also contained things like telling them what Life Insurance cover I had, that I have Life Insurance cover with my Union, and other obscure little things like that.

    There was one item in my Will that will probably be controversial - I won't go into details - but I have made sure that I have told my beneficiaries that a) it is my idea, b) the person who will benefit had no say in setting it up, and c) why I did it. This gets any potential conflict out of the way before they have to deal with it through a haze of grief.

    Finally, my Letter of Wishes. This is an appendix to the Will, where I gave the rationale for my selection of executors, why I made that controversial provision, small personal gifts, what I want them to do with my pets, my websites, my online business, hymns for my funeral - all things that don't belong in a Will as they are more requests than Orders Which Must Be Obeyed At All Times. There's also a parting message affirming my love for my children.

    I have also run through most of the stuff personally with my executors, so none of it will come as a surprise.

    I know this is not all about handling an estate, but these are all things I found helpful for doing the Estate stuff, and also some of the ramifications and changes that it makes for those left behind. I hope it helps.
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