Dealing with the estate and finances

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Caring to the end

A guide to end of life care and beyond for unpaid carers in Surrey

Dealing with the estate and finances

This information may be helpful to you if you are involved with the person that owns the estate or want to find out more about entitlements and pensions upon their death. It covers:

Executor and administrator role

  • The money, possessions and property of someone who has died is called their ‘estate’. When a person dies, somebody has to deal with their ‘estate’, which involves collecting in their money, property and possessions, paying any debts and then distributing the estate to those entitled to it. 
  • An executor is chosen by someone before they die to deal with their estate and is appointed by being named in their Will. The executor’s authority is taken from the Will and comes into effect immediately upon the person’s death. More than one person can be named in the Will but not all have to act. An executor may have to apply for special legal authority before they can deal with the estate and this is called ‘probate’. It is important to note that the executor is not necessarily the person appointed as Lasting Power of Attorney for property and finances.  
  • An administrator is appointed by the court to deal with the estate administration in the following situations:
  1. There is ‘intestacy’. This means the person has died without making a Will.
  2. The Will is invalid
  3. There is a Will but there is no executor alive or willing to act.
  • Where there is a Will, but no executor is appointed or able to act, the administrator will be someone with an interest in the estate. “Letters of administration with Will annexed” will need to be applied for.
  • Where there is no valid Will, an administrator is usually next of kin or a close relative, in order of priority as follows: spouse or civil partner, children, parents, brother or sister, other relatives. ‘Letters of administration” will need to be applied for.
  • Although there are exceptions, note it is against the law to start sharing out the estate or to get money from the estate until the executor or administrator have probate or letters of administration.
  • Find more information on When you may not need to apply for probate or letters of administration.
  • Key duties of the executor or administrator include:
  1. Registering the death
  2. Getting copies of the Will 
  3. Organising the funeral  
  4. Valuing the estate 
  5. Taking responsibility for property and post 
  6. Applying for probate or letters of administration
  7. Sorting out finances 
  8. Distributing the estate 
  9. Paying any Inheritance Tax 
  10. Dealing with any assets  
  • For more details about these duties, Age UK have a range of information.

Getting started

  • The Gov.UK website provides a useful step by step guide on what to do after someone dies.
  • One of the first things to do when the person you cared for has died is to check whether there is a Will.  They may also have left other instructions in ‘letters of wishes’. You may already know if there is a Will and where it is. For example you have discussed with them that it will be left in the financial paperwork or with their solicitor. You may also have discussed with them being the executor of the Will or you know who the executor is. 
  • If you cannot find a Will in their home, check if you can find a certificate of deposit, which is sent if the Will is kept by the Principal Registry of the Family Division. Even without a certificate of deposit, it is worth checking with the Registry to see if they hold the Will. If the person you care for died in a hospital or care home, check if the Will was left with them. You can contact their solicitor, accountant or bank to see if they hold the Will. The will may be registered with “Certainty – The National Will Register”, the Law Society’s endorsed provider of a national will register and search service. You can pay for a search of Wills registered on their database.
  • If you are dealing with the estate owned by the person you cared for, bear in mind it can take many months, depending on the complexity of their affairs. You can handle it all yourself or you can decide to pass on the role to a solicitor and the estate will pay the fees. If you think of doing it yourself, make sure you can cope with the demands on your time. If you go ahead without a solicitor download a guide on “How to obtain probate: a guide for people acting without a solicitor (PA2)” 
  • Here is more information on looking for a solicitor to deal with the estate on your behalf.
  • Here is more information about what to do next in terms of dealing with the estate.

Benefits and entitlements

  • There are benefits available to help with the costs when somebody dies.
  • You might be able to get help to pay for the funeral of a partner, close relative, close friend or child. You must be responsible for the funeral and you must meet certain criteria, including being in receipt of certain benefits.
  • If your husband, wife or civil partner has died you might be able to claim Bereavement Support Payment, but only if they died on or after 6 April 2017. Seek advice if you were not married to you partner and they have died as this has been contested in the courts. You need to have been under your state pension age when your partner died (currently 66). Check your state pension age if you are not sure. It doesn’t matter what your income is, if you have any savings or if you are working. Your husband, wife or civil partner must have paid national insurance (NI) at the lower earnings limit for at least 25 weeks in one tax year OR died because of an accident at work, or a disease caused by their work. When you apply the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will check to see if your partner paid enough NI contributions.
  • If you don’t have children, you can get a lump sum payment of £2,500 and monthly payments of £100 for up to 18 months. If you have children or you’re pregnant, you can get a lump sum payment of £3,500 and monthly payments of £350 for up to 18 months.
  • You won’t have to pay tax on any of the payments, including the lump sum. Your monthly payments won’t affect your other benefits. If you still have some of the lump sum left after a year, it could affect the amount of other benefits you can get.
  • You should try and fill in the form within three months of your husband, wife or civil partner’s death to get the full 18 months of payments. After three months, the DWP will count your application as late. You’ll lose one monthly payment for every month your application is late. To get the lump sum, your application must reach the DWP within 12 months of your husband, wife or civil partner’s death. If your application arrives after 12 months, you won’t get the lump sum, but you will get any remaining monthly payments due.
  • You can apply by filling out a form on www.gov.uk or calling the DWP Bereavement Service free helpline on 0800 731 0469 from 8am to 6pm.

Pensions

  • You may be able to get extra state pension payments from your husband, wife or civil partner’s state pension or NI contributions. You need to be over state pension age to claim extra payments, and what you get and how you claim will depend on whether you reached state pension age before or after 6 April 2016. Contact the pension service to find out what you can claim. Telephone: 0800 731 7898, Textphone: 0800 731 7339
    NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 731 7898​​
  • You may get a private pension from your husband, wife or civil partner’s workplace, personal or stakeholder pension – it will depend on the pension scheme. Contact the pension scheme to find out. Note you will have to pay tax on those payments if the pension provider does not pay it for you.
  • You may be able to get a war widow’s or widower’s pension if you husband, wife or civil partner died because of their service in the Armed Forces or because of a war.
  • For more information about entitlements and pensions upon a spouse or partner’s death.
  • Benefits can be complicated. There may be other payments you may be able to claim, for example help with paying your rent or council tax. Always seek advice if you are unsure, or struggling to pay your bills.
  • You can find out more on the government’s website on benefits, tax and pension after the death of a spouse.