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By Ellen Bates
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The Legal Process in dealing with the Death and Estate of a Family Member

The death of a family member or a close friend will inevitably come to us all during our lifetime and the legal process after death is not always clear or widely available in the public domain.

There are a few crucial pieces of jargon which believe are worthy to explanation to help understand the role.

Registering the Death

In Northern Ireland a death must be registered within 5 days from the death by presenting the Medical Certificate showing the case and date of death.

Is there an Estate to be Administered?

The word estate is a term used to describe everything that the deceased was entitled to at the time of their death ie land, property, bank accounts, personal effects.

 If the value of their estate is worth more than £10,000.00 then a Grant of Probate (if a will was made by Deceased) or a Grant of Administration (if no will was made by Deceased) will normally be required.

A Grant of Probate is a document issued by the Court giving power to the Executors named in a will to distribute the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes in accordance with their will.

A Grant of Administration is a document issued by the Court to allow those persons, usually the next of kin to administer the estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy (intestacy is a term used for someone who dies without a will and the law has specific rules governing what happens in this event).

Estate Valuation

In order to obtain the Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration the Executor of Administrator (usually with the assistance of their Solicitor) has to value the estate. To do so, it will involve contact with the relevant institutions such as Banks, Pension Companies, Insurers to establish the value of funds held at the date of death, together with valuations of any land and property held by them. At the conclusion of this will process , it can be established if any inheritance tax is due to be paid by the estate. In very simplistic terms, an estate is liable to pay inheritance tax if at the time of death, the estate is worth more than £325,000.00 (there are various exemptions and exceptions to this which are the subject of more detailed commentary).

Applying to the Court for a Grant of Probate / Grant of Administration

Once it has been established how much tax, if any, is payable and arrangements made for payment, then an Oath is prepared by solicitor for the Executor or Administrator and is sent to the High Court together with details of the Inheritance Tax position. On being satisfied of the content, the Court will then issue  a Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration which  will then allow any funds being held in financial institutions to be released to the Beneficiaries (those named in the will or entitled to under intestate ) and any property transferred .

The intricacies and skill involved are not to be underestimated and specialist legal and accounting advice  should be sought.

Should you require legal advice, please contact our office to make an appointment.

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