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A word of caution for DIY administrators

If you are administering an estate yourself, there are certain things you must bear in mind. Before a grant of probate or of letters of administration is obtained, it is wise to protect yourself by publishing a statutory advertisement for creditors in a local newspaper in the area where the deceased resided. This will prevent possible creditors of which you are unaware from claiming the debt after the estate is distributed. Once the grant is obtained, the same advertisement should be placed in the London Gazette.

If the beneficiaries under the will are not personally known to you, it is vital that you check their IDs – this will prevent mistakes in the distribution.

In case of intestacy, it is really important to check the family tree yourself – the information supplied by other family members may be inaccurate! Indemnities as to validity of the tree provided may not be an adequate protection. In more complicated family situations and larger estates it is perhaps a good idea to even consult a professional genealogist. You should not be misled by the same surnames – despite this, it may turn out that the person is unrelated to the deceased and is not entitled to anything.

You should also be careful about possible previous marriages of the deceased. There may also be illegitimate children from a previous relationship, and who may be entitled to a share. It is worth checking for any children who may have been born overseas. Such possibilities should not be dismissed – by neglecting them you leave yourself open to possible future claims from legally entitled beneficiaries.

Bear in mind that adopted children have the same inheritance rights as natural children, but if a child has been adopted out of the family, he is not entitled to anything from his biological parents’ estates.

In many cases, people mistakenly believe that their nephews and nieces are not entitled to anything in case their brothers or sisters are dead. This is not true – the issue of the deceased beneficiary would normally be entitled to equal shares of the inheritance.

Before distributing the estate, make sure you undertake bankruptcy checks – if a beneficiary is bankrupt, then his/her share must be paid to the trustee in bankruptcy, and not to the beneficiary personally. If there is a will provision for a company, the situation is the same – no gift should be made directly to a company in administration or receivership.

If the beneficiary is of unsound mind - lacks the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves - then the entitlement should be paid to the deputy appointed by the court.

It is obvious that administration of estates is a complex matter with many hurdles to overcome. Surely, an experienced solicitor will be of great help. We can offer you all necessary assistance at an affordable price.

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