There are a number of reasons why someone may need legal assistance when it comes to the administration of an estate.
Duties of an Executor / Administrator (also known as a Personal Representative)
Before obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration, a Personal Representative does not owe any particular obligations to the deceased’s estate, its beneficiaries or the creditors (assuming that there has been no intermeddling).
Before obtaining a Grant, a Personal Representative’s duties will generally be:
- Providing information for Inheritance Tax purposes; and
- To dispose of the deceased’s body.
Once a Personal Representative has obtained a Grant, their duties under the Administration of Estates Act 1925 are:
- Collect and get in the real and personal estate of the deceased and administer it according to law.
- When required to do so by the court, exhibit on oath in the court a full inventory of the estate and when so required render an account of the administration of the estate to the court.
- When required to do so by the High Court, deliver up the grant of probate or administration to that court.
Collecting and getting in the estate of the deceased requires a PR to:
- Identify the deceased’s liabilities and assets.
- Obtain payment of any debts due to the deceased.
- Gain control of the assets.
- Convert those assets into money (where appropriate).
Administering an estate requires a PR to:
- Maintain the assets safely, once collected.
- Pay the deceased’s debts.
- Ascertain the residuary estate and properly distribute the estate (if assets remain).
If a Personal Representative does not adhere to these duties, they will be liable for breach of duty and may face sanctions, such as:
- A claim for devastavit (wasting of estate assets).
- Their removal as Personal Representative.
Until the assets in an estate are transferred to a beneficiary, they have no legal or beneficial interest in that asset. The property is entirely owned by the Personal Representative. Instead, a beneficiary has personal rights over property, which can only be claimed or enforced by action, and not by taking physical possession, that can be used to ensure that the Personal Representative properly administers the estate.
The starting point is that a PR must keep estate accounts and that these should be made available for inspection by a beneficiary or creditor on request. Copies should be provided and copying charges may be made if necessary. If this request is refused or if the accounts are not clear or accurate, the beneficiary is entitled to make an application to the court for an inventory and/or an account.
If you are:
(i) being denied information from a Personal Representative or believe the Personal Representative is not administering an estate properly; or
(ii) the Personal Representative of an estate and receiving requests for information regarding an estate or are facing criticism in relation to the estate administration;
please click here to speak to one of our experts.