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The Great Hunt: Help others if you've been an executor of a will - Page 6

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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 25.8K views
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  • MarkW2MarkW2 Forumite
    4 posts
    I recently obtained probate on my wife's mother's estate. It was straightforward, just a lot of form-filling.
    But it would have been much more difficult if we had not been looking after her affairs for several years so that we knew where all her assets and all her documents were.
    Make sure that it is all written down even If you do not look at it until after death.
  • Yorkshireman99Yorkshireman99 Forumite
    5.5K posts
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    slimmer1 wrote: »
    Just finished sorting out my mother-in-law's estate. Quite easy if you're comfortable with documentation. I've found:
    - It really helps if you get AUTHORISED copies of both the death certificate (best obtained at the point of registration) and of the will ( we got 5 of each - and needed them all. Most establishments return them but if you have more, you don't have to wait for all that and can send off to all establishments at the same time). You may well have to establish proof of identity by production of passport, utility bills, photo driving license; any copies will also need authentication just like a passport application.
    - Probate only needed if property or land involved, large sums of money OR if the banks you're involved with insist!! (depends on cash total, usually £20K). My understanding is this is to ensure identity of executors is established and ownership of estate is also established AND validity of the will is established.
    - Executors don't have to follow the will!!!!! You can vary it providing it remains within the broad wishes of the deceased BUT agrement of all parties is such a good idea.
    - One obstacle is as soon as there is a death, their bank account is frozen so you need some account to handle the estate cash. Banks no longer allow 'executors accounts' so, again with the agreement of all interested parties you can just open another account - best in at least one (or all) executors names. BEWARE, some establishments require destination accounts for payouts to be at least 6 months old!!
    - Funeral expenses can be paid by the deceased bank directly to the funeral directors by BACS upon presentation of the bill - it may take a little while.
    - These barriers are ensure legacies only go to the intended, prevent future challenges, establish an audit trail for all money and assets.
    Hope this helps.

    Then there is probate - I didn't.
    To suggest that executors can vary the will is nonsense. They are legally obliged to follow it and have NO discretion. It is possible for the beneficiaries to agree to a deed of variation in some circumstances but that is NOT the executor's responsibility.
  • edited 29 March 2017 at 7:03PM
    randersranders Forumite
    10 posts
    Tenth Anniversary Combo Breaker
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    edited 29 March 2017 at 7:03PM
    Dealt with (in fact still dealing with) the Scottish system - Confirmation.
    Most things were smooth - dealing with the banks (Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland) was easy, as we went into local branches where they were above-and-beyond helpful, much better than if we'd started trying to understand those things over the phone.

    Difficult however were:
    - getting a refund from Curry's KnowHow - ended up making a threat of legal action to them, what a way to treat grieving people (I really hope it's not a deliberate tactic)
    - Paypal (who in one call repeatedly said they needed to speak to the (deceased) account-holder before they'd deal with the Executor!
    - NS&I who gave one form of advice about what's needed over the phone, and then their own people who receive the paperwork which you then send in don't accept it.
    - getting the right wording on the forms for the Sheriff's Court - they ask for specific wording in some places and that wording isn't stated in the Guidance which you use to complete the forms.

    Tip1 - the NS&I website has accurate information about what you need to send them, whereas the call agents might not.

    Tip2 - I got to see a specialist solicitor through the CAB, who was very helpful indeed, gave me some of the wording which the Sheriff's Court like to see and other advice too. Before seeing him I'd gone through the Guidance about completing the HMRC forms (C1, C2 and C5) which are what you complete for the Court. So I already had some idea about the areas I needed particular help in so that I could use his time to the best advantage (I'd advise getting clued-up first on the basics by reading advice available on the internet which pops up when you search, from various law companies and Citizens Advice and eg Age UK, so that this most precious time - which was some of the best time I spent - isn't used up on explaining the basics, which can be got from elsewhere).

    Tip3 - various sites advise getting a copy of a book on the subject. Firstly it's available in libraries so look at it there before buying, secondly it didn't help me - was filled with complex legalese and would have been too confusing (raising questions I didn't really need to know anything about...I think!) so I did without it.

    Tip3 - the Guidance associated with the forms says that 'round £ values' are enough. They are...for HMRC who get the forms from the Courts, but the Courts asked for exact to the penny values from me.

    Tip4 - the Commissaries (at the Court) let you drop in and will answer questions (but of course can't give legal advice)...but if you start filling in the form first then the advice can be so much more focused on what you personally are trying to do, rather than being general (and some of it therefore maybe irrelevant for you).

    Tip5 - Once you submit the forms they may well send them back with a letter describing things that need to be amended. I really didn't understand one of the points and thought I had a major legal issue...until I went back to them in person and they explained quite easily. So much better than engaging an expensive legal expert in panic. Don't panic.

    Tip6 - It's a good feeling when they eventually accept the forms - takes a little of the pain from the payment of the fees! Just think how much you've saved on solicitors fees.

    Suggested list of things not to forget to look into (not an exhaustive list!) either to cancel the service if relevant, or to ask for refunds, or to notify a change of person paying for them, or just to decide what to do about them:
    Gas
    Electricity
    Mobile phone
    Landline phone
    Broadband
    Paid-for TV
    Council Tax (if the person lived alone they might stop this for e.g. 6 months)
    House
    Car
    Car tax
    Car insurance
    Buildings insurance
    Contents insurance
    Savings accounts eg Prem Bonds & others
    Loans
    Investments eg NS&I & others
    Life insurance
    Travel insurance
    Specific Product insurance eg 3-year warranties
    Other insurance eg home emergency
    Memberships eg the AA
    Employers pension
    State pension
    HMRC...tax owed? Refund?
    Bank accounts
    Credit Cards
    Debit cards
    Loyalty cards
    Furniture (& is any on HP?)
    Any gifts made in last 7yy (ask for bank statements & go though them)
    Any Legal Rights claim? (claim against the estate)
    Library card & Library books
    Passport
    Gov’t Gateway
    driving licence
    Winter Fuel Payment
    DWP
    EHIC card
    TV Licence
    Scottish Entitlement Card (Scottish bus pass but used for other things too)
  • Hi,

    I dealt with my Dad's estate (for my elderly mother who was executor but wasn't up to it). It was well above the IHT free rate so probate was required and included foreign property to make life (or death) really fun.

    Anyhow - lessons learned:

    The more the estate it the more the solicitors or banks will charge. this sounds logical, but essentially it is to cover their malpractice insurance and be a gravy train. There is virtually no more work for a large estate than a small one, it is the complexity of the estate which drives up the workload.

    Don't let the bank or a solicitor probate the estate unless you really can't do maths and keep on top of some simple correspondence.

    The main challenge is contacting everybody and establishing if there are any outstanding assets or liabilities.

    The best thing my Dad ever did about this was to sit down with my sister and I for an hour or so every Christmas and tell us what was where. He had a list of investments and contact names, numbers, etc. and this really helped in the end.

    Practically all it takes is adding everything up in some different columns and filling in some forms. By far the hardest part is getting the information you need to do the calculations.

    You will need to write to everyone that could have had some money or assets owed to the deceased. Banks, private loans, credit cards, loan agreements, PPI claims (if you are quick) insurance, private healthcare, etc. etc.

    Almost every single one of these will insist on an original death certificate (though they will return them eventually) so at the registrar's get at least 20 copies (usually £1 each at the time but more expensive and hassle later on when you realise you need them).

    Look through at least the last 7 years of tax returns and all backing paperwork. I found a capital loss (when the crash happened in 2007/08) worth over £10,000 in tax which my mum has been able to use.

    Go though pockets and even socks carefully if your loved one had some cash. We found hundreds of pounds £10 here and £5 there just left in pockets. Did you hear about the pair of old socks given to charity with thousands in them. Older people do the strangest things and hide cash in the strangest of places.

    Read every bit of paperwork before you chuck it. My mum was all for throwing everything en-masse. I found a personal loan document (not much more than an IOU) worth over a thousand pounds in with mementos such as Valentines cards and photos.

    One really important thing to remember is that many people don't plan efficiently for Inheritance Tax. You have up to two years after death or probate (I can't remember) to vary the will. If all the beneficiaries agree you can change the will to say anything you want it to. It's called a Deed of Variation - get expert help on this, though.

    Don't forget to take time out to cry as you go through all the old stuff - you'll find a lot of memories if they were close to you.

    Good luck
  • I would suggest that you have a conversation with the person who has asked you to be an executor. Get a notebook and note down all the organisations they belong to. Ask for account numbers, addresses, policy numbers, insurances, doctors, dentist, optician, pension, benefits and organisation/hobby groups they belong to. Anyone who will need to be notified of the death. This will give you an idea of how many death certificates to get. It will save time to send all the letters with a separate death certificate rather than wait for each organisation to send the one and only death certificate back to you in order to send it to the next company on the list. Make sure you are in contact with the other executor(s) if there is more than just you. They can also have a copy of the information in the notebook. Ask who they want to go to the funeral, what sort of service, hymns, etc. Ask where they wish to be buried/cremated. Glean as much information as possible, including who they want to have items from their home and who they DON'T want to have anything. Get a spare key cut, if possible. Pick up their address book as soon as you can after their death. Should there be any differences of opinion between the executors then you have the information and wishes in the notebook to refer to. This solves all the issues when one person assumes to have more knowledge about the deceased then anyone else.

    If there are several executors - divide up the work so each person has a separate issue to deal with. This will save both time and tempers.

    Record everything either on a spreadsheet or in a file. Keep everything in date order and keep separate sections for each of the issues you are dealing with. Keep copies of emails etc. Be very organised. Check everything - even solicitors make mistakes.

    Whatever you spend dealing with the estate - get receipts and claim all these expenses back from the estate. This can be an expensive business so you don't want to be out of pocket over it.

    This can be a distressing time but if you try to plan and get yourself armed with as much information as possible, it will be much easier to deal with.
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  • It's worth noting that the Government are about to introduce a massive hike in probate fees for most estates.

    The current fees are £155 or £215.

    Under the new scheme, estates under £50,000 will pay nothing but above that the fees will go up to £20,000! What happens if your wife or husband dies but your only asset is your house? You may have to sell your own home to pay the fees.

    There is a House of Lords Committee Report on it. Google search for the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee's 28th and 29th reports (board won't allow me to post the link- sorry), saying it "arguably amounts to a stealth tax".

    Write to your MP!
  • gdrforestgdrforest Forumite
    27 posts
    Third Anniversary 10 Posts
    When you have the death certificate the register office will give you a code which can be used on the government's 'tellusonce' service which can be used to notify many central and local government offices including HMRC. This will produce a tax refund if it is due.
  • MojisolaMojisola Forumite
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    kingbing wrote: »
    Under the new scheme, estates under £50,000 will pay nothing but above that the fees will go up to £20,000!

    What happens if your wife or husband dies but your only asset is your house? You may have to sell your own home to pay the fees.

    The proposed probate application fees are as follows:
    £300 for estates worth more than £50,000 and up to £300,000
    £1,000 for estates worth more than £300,000 and up to £500,000
    £4,000 for estates worth more than £500,000 and up to £1 million
    £8,000 for estates worth more than £1m and up to £1.6 million
    £12,000 for estates worth more than £1.6m and up to £2 million
    £20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million

    If anyone leaves an estate worth over £2m, it shouldn't be difficult to pay the fee.

    If all the value of the estate is in the property, the surviving spouse should be able to get a loan to cover the fees - although this situation would be a good case for planning ahead for inheritance tax and probate.
  • Yorkshireman99Yorkshireman99 Forumite
    5.5K posts
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    Mojisola wrote: »
    The proposed probate application fees are as follows:
    £300 for estates worth more than £50,000 and up to £300,000
    £1,000 for estates worth more than £300,000 and up to £500,000
    £4,000 for estates worth more than £500,000 and up to £1 million
    £8,000 for estates worth more than £1m and up to £1.6 million
    £12,000 for estates worth more than £1.6m and up to £2 million
    £20,000 for estates worth more than £2 million

    If anyone leaves an estate worth over £2m, it shouldn't be difficult to pay the fee.

    If all the value of the estate is in the property, the surviving spouse should be able to get a loan to cover the fees - although this situation would be a good case for planning ahead for inheritance tax and probate.
    On an estate of £499,999 the fee is less than 0.2% that is hardly excessive is it?
  • BonniepurpleBonniepurple Forumite
    228 posts
    Sixth Anniversary 100 Posts Name Dropper
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    Speaking as someone who is still trying to untangle my mother's Will after 14 months, be very, very careful about writing it yourself! My Mum did a basic Will, however what she wrote and what the law says are different. My Dad (non executor), myself and my Uncle (both executors) are trying to work out how best to vary the Will so that the spirit and law are kept.

    Because of the issues, I'm using a solicitor. I'd rather pay more and get it right, than risk issues arising when my Dad dies.

    One thing that I will add is that online passwords have been a nightmare. The death was totally unexpected (sudden death in epilepsy) and my Mum had numerous passwords jotted down on scraps of paper - often several for the same account. Thankfully I could access her emails on her phone and so got most of them reset - although with the laptop I did wonder if I should apply to GCHQ with my ability to hack into stuff!
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