Probate - Further Considerations Guide

At this difficult time there are practical considerations to consider. Personal Representatives have a duty to safeguard the deceased’s property until the property is either sold or transferred to a beneficiary. If you feel overwhelmed by the situation, which is not uncommon, we can deal with these matters for you.

Property

It is the duty of the Personal Representatives to make sure that all property is insured and the cover remains in place until the property is sold or transferred, when the insurance cover will become the responsibility of the new owner(s). The Personal Representatives will need to contact the insurance company as one of their first tasks immediately following the death. If the property is unoccupied it is likely that the insurers will reduce the level of cover and impose further conditions on the insurance policy. It is very important that the Personal Representatives ensure they comply with any such further conditions, otherwise the insurance cover may be invalid. It may be that the deceased’s present insurer will be unable to provide a satisfactory level of cover. If this is the case we can help to arrange to put the Personal Representatives in touch with an insurance broker, who can arrange for specialist insurance cover to be placed on the property immediately.

During the winter months, it would be advisable to leave the heating on low or alternatively to drain down the central heating system to avoid any problems in relation to burst pipes. 

You should ensure that the property is securely locked at all times, and that the Personal Representatives or a member of the deceased’s family or a neighbour regularly attends at the property to collect mail and to check on security.  It would probably be a good idea to have a light on timer and if there is an alarm at the property this should be used. It is likely these will be some of the conditions imposed upon the insurance cover in any event, if the property is unoccupied.

When the property is sold or transferred to a beneficiary it would be necessary for one of the Personal Representatives to attend the property immediately beforehand to obtain final gas, electricity and water meter readings. You can also disconnect the telephone line or ask us to do this on your behalf.

Valuable possessions

If there are valuable items such as jewellery or antiques contained in the property and it is unoccupied then the Personal Representatives should consider taking these items into their own home for storage. In the event that this is not practical, these items should be stored securely elsewhere. Where the items are taken into the home of the Personal Representative for safe keeping they must ensure their insurance extends to cover the additional items.

Miscellaneous personal effects

Care should be taken by the Personal Representatives before distributing any personal items or dealing with the sale of any vehicles in the estate prior to the issue of the Grant of Representation. Legal advice should be taken before doing so. We always advise that a receipt should be obtained from the beneficiary concerned.

Driving licence and passport

The Personal Representatives should also cancel the deceased’s driving licence and passport. Lodging the ‘Tell Us Once’ notification can assist in notifying many of the local and central government agencies in this regard and the details of this scheme are usually provided at the time that the death certificate is obtained from the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Claims against the estate

The Personal Representatives must be alert to the possibility of claims being made against the estate and generally should not take any steps to distribute an estate inside of the period of 6 months from the date that the Grant of Probate was issued.  

Such claims are usually made by close members of the family or persons financially dependent upon the deceased in some way during their lifetime. If the Personal Representatives feel that there is any prospect of a claim being made by any third party against the estate they should obtain legal advice immediately from a specialist contentious probate solicitor. At JCP Solicitors we have a specialist team dealing with contentious estates that can assist should such a dispute arise in an estate. Please click here to meet the team.

This information is provided for general guidance only and our advice may vary depending upon the circumstances relating to an individual estate. We would strongly suggest that Personal Representatives obtain legal advice from the outset to avoid any problems or disputes arising in the estate, which could prove to be costly to remedy and result in personal liability being incurred by the Personal Representatives.

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