Question- I was informed recently that I had been appointed Executor in the Estate of an aunt who died recently. I was surprised as I had not been in regular contact with this aunt and I was never informed at any stage that she was going to appoint me as her Executor. She left a house and some money and has divided it up between various nieces and nephews and charities. She was unmarried and had no children. Is this a big job to undertake and do I have to agree to the appointment?
A – Certainly it has to be said that it is indeed a significant responsibility to be appointed as Executor in the Estate of a deceased person, in this case your late aunt. This aunt has entrusted you to deal with her affairs after her death. It is surprisingly common that people making wills do not actually ask permission of the Executor to be appointed. More often than not, the person making the Will has a very clear idea as to whom they wish to appoint and these people are usually chosen because they are certainly trusted, usually impartial and, most of all, honest. In many ways therefore, you can take it as a great credit to you that you were appointed. On the other hand, I appreciate that this now involves a considerable amount of work and one which will take some time to fulfil particularly if it involves a house which ultimately will also need to be sold.
However, once you appoint solicitors to deal with the work on your behalf, you will find that your involvement will be much reduced and you will only need to provide information to the instructed solicitor. Our advice therefore, is to immediately appoint a solicitor to act on behalf of the estate in this matter. You certainly will need to get together information to allow the solicitor to make a start. The first and most important document is of course the official Death Certificate for your late aunt as nothing can be done until you are in receipt of the Death Certificate. You will also need to gather together the PPS numbers of all Beneficiaries including your deceased aunt. Details of all bank accounts etc should also be furnished to your solicitor. It will be important to go through your aunt’s personal documents in her house and check all incoming post to make sure that you can gather together a complete picture of your aunt’s financial situation. Remember also that as Executor, you are responsible to maintain the assets during the course of the Probate Application. This means that you will need to keep an eye on the house to ensure that it is kept in a good and safe condition. You may be able to come to an arrangement with a neighbour regarding this but you should certainly ensure that any such neighbour has your contact details for emergencies. For all these reasons, it is important to move the process along speedily as, no matter how much assistance you get from your solicitor, the ultimate responsibility to maintain the assets and ensure a careful and honest distribution of the assets lies with the Executor. You should also ensure as a matter of priority that the house where your aunt lived is insured as many older people forget to continue to put household insurance in place once the mortgage has been paid. We wish you the very best of luck with the application.
Question – My Grandmother died some months ago now and in her last Will and Testament she appointed my grandfather as her Executor. Unfortunately, my Grandfather predeceased her by many years and it seems as if she never changed the Will. In her Will, she left various gifts to charity with the remainder of her Estate to be divided between her two children alive at the date of her death and her six nieces and nephews. Nobody is sure however how to go about dealing with the estate as there is no alternate Executor appointed. Can you advise?
A – Firstly, we are sorry to hear of the passing of your Grandmother. It is obviously unfortunate that she did not redo her Will following the death of her husband but, this is not at all uncommon and although problematic, can be resolved. In this case therefore, the Estate will have to be administered by a person called an “Administrator” instead of an Executor. This person will be one of the residuary legatees (the person who inherits the remainder of the Estate after all the gifts under the Will have been satisfied). It seems from what you have said that there are a number of residuary Legatees in your Grandmother’s Will including her surviving children and nieces and nephews. You do not all need to apply but all of you should come together and agree who should act as administrator. It does not have to be one sole person and can be more than one but there is absolutely no need for all the residuary legatees to participate in the administration. The process proceeds in an identical manner to Probate with perhaps an additional affidavit to explain the circumstances. Again, it is also useful to appoint a solicitor to deal with the application on your behalf and we would strongly advise that once an administrator has been agreed between all of you, he or she should consult with a solicitor to start the process. We wish you the best of luck.
Question – My cousin died recently and appointed me as her Executor. I plan to take out a personal application for Probate. I am aware that it is a lot of work and responsibility but I think I am up to the job. The only complication is that I am living in the UK but with cheap flights, can get across relatively easily if needs be. Are there any restrictions on me doing this myself without employing a solicitor?
A – It is up to the Executor to decide whether or not he or she will use a solicitor to help him or her administer the Estate and prove the Will or whether he or she will take this job on himself. This normally depends on a number of factors such as the size of the Estate, the experience the Executor has in such matters, etc. Obviously there will be a saving of sorts if you do not appoint a solicitor but it must be remembered that a lot of time and trouble can be saved in using someone who does this kind of thing every day of the week.
If an Executor decides to prove the Will himself then he must apply to the Personal Applications section of the Probate Office for an appointment. The office is located at the Four Courts in Dublin. If you decide to take out a Grant of Probate you will have sole responsibility for the administration of the Estate concerned together with completion of the necessary legal documents relating to same. Therefore, before deciding to apply to the Probate Office, you must be confident that you have the ability to research and undertake the legal responsibilities associated with administering the Estate. There are however certain circumstances where it is not possible to apply in person to extract a Grant of Probate and consequently a solicitor will have to be instructed. The circumstances are broadly as follows:-
(a) Where the person entitled to apply is a minor (a person under the age of 18);
(b) Where there are issues concerning the validity of a Will;
(c) Where there are issues among the next of kin regarding the Estate;
(d) Where the deceased dies domiciled outside the Republic of Ireland leaving a Will in a foreign language;
(e) Where a Beneficiary who benefits in excess of €20,000.00 of an Estate is non-resident in this jurisdiction.
These are not exhaustive but you will see the one relating to a non-resident applicant. You mention that you live in the UK. If this is your permanent place of residence then, you will not be entitled to take out a Grant yourself and will be obliged to instruct solicitors within this jurisdiction. You might like to clarify the position yourself with the Probate Office before you apply for a date in the Personal Applications section as dates currently are being given for some nine months down the road which would result in a great deal of wasted time if it subsequently transpired that you were ineligible to apply. We wish you the best of luck.
Question – I am in the process of administering my late mother’s estate myself. There seems to be a great deal of work and I wonder if you could give me some tips on what information I will need? I have been given a date from the Probate Office for a first appointment in October next so although I know I have plenty of time, I am not sure where to start.
A – Certainly it is the responsibility of the Executor to ascertain the entire assets and liabilities of the deceased. This means getting everything together from the cost of the funeral, their last mobile phone bill to the money in their Credit Union account and any outstanding bills for utilities. This task can be quite arduous. It must be remembered that property held under joint accounts is not included in the deceased’s estate. The principle of Survivorship applies to such property. The principle arises where two or more people own something. On the death of one joint owner, his or her interest automatically passes to the surviving joint owner. This is most common in husband/wife relationships. The first thing to do is to obtain the Death Certificate and any joint property will pass by way of a simple application to the Property Registration Authority exhibiting the Death Certificate. However, all assets and liabilities in the deceased’s own name must form part of a return to the Revenue Commissioners for clearance. This is a sworn Affidavit prepared by the Executor which documents all the assets and liabilities of the deceased. It is of the utmost importance that the document is prepared carefully and honestly as it is a sworn document and will be scrutinised both by the Revenue and by the Probate Office. The next step is to actually apply to the Probate Office for the Grant of Probate and this will include the submission of a number of forms along with the Original Will. All of these will be examined thoroughly by the Probate Office and if everything is in order the Probate Office will issue a document called a, “Grant of Representation” which authorises the Executor named therein to administer the deceased’s estate. If your mother is survived by your father, it may not be necessary to apply for a Grant at all. However, if your mother is the last surviving joint owner of her home and all other assets are indeed in her sole name then, it will be necessary to apply for a Grant. It is always advisable at least to have a consultation with a solicitor initially to ascertain what actually needs to be done. This may save valuable time particularly in view of the timeframe for personal applicants applying for an initial appointment in the Probate Office. We wish you the best of luck.