The death of a loved one is a traumatic time and having to manage the estate they left behind can be a major additional stress.
Many solicitors however are well practiced at dealing with these issues and can advise about making the process as stress free as possible.
Whose responsibility is it to manage the estate of the deceased?
The person on whom the responsibility falls is called the personal representative of the deceased.
If a valid will exists then this person is usually named and is given the title of Executor. However, if no able person is named or no will exists, letters of administration can be applied for. The personal representative in this scenario is given the title of administrator.
While letters of administration require some extra work and extra expenses in terms of insurance, the role of administrator and executor create similar obligations.
It is worth noting that a personal representative can renounce or reserve their entitlement to manage a deceased’s estate. Thus, they cannot be forced to take on this role and can refuse to take on the burden.
It is therefore typically a good idea to discuss with the person you intend to name in your will as executor as to whether or not they are willing to perform the role.
What should a personal representative do?
A person cannot simply produce a will and declare their right to property based on its content. The personal representative (and there may be multiple personal representatives) is the only one entitled to disperse the assets in the estate of the deceased. With this power comes a number of responsibilities.
The first is an extremely pragmatic one, namely arranging the funeral of the deceased.
Secondly, the formal authority to manage the estate must be applied for. Applications can be sent to the Dublin Central Office or a local regional centre.
Tipperary’s regional centre closed in 2012 and this has meant a lengthening of this stage of the process as the central office deals with upwards of 20,000 applications a year with only two officers authorised to approve complex applications.
However, good news is on the horizon with the imminent re-opening of the Clonmel probate office after considerable pressure from the Tipperary Solicitors Bar Association to do so.
Holding the purse strings
Once the authority to manage the estate has been granted, the personal representative is then charged with collecting in all the assets in the estate, paying the debts due (such as revenue) and then dispensing the estate to the beneficiaries as determined by law (and the will if a valid one exists).
Disputes over what a person is entitled to from a deceased’s estate are common and can range from disputes over the exact interpretation of a sentence in a will to claims of legitimate expectation of some property that they would otherwise not be entitled to under the will or the rules of intestacy (used to manage an estate where no valid will exists).