Losing a dear friend is never easy, and the emotional toll it takes can be overwhelming. Amidst the grieving process, there comes a time when practical matters must be addressed, including handling your friend’s estate. Although this isn’t common, we regularly encounter people handling their friends or relatives estate due to them having no living family. This responsibility can seem daunting, especially if you’ve never been in such a position before. However, there are steps you can take to navigate this process with care and consideration.
- Notify Authorities and Family: If your friend passed away at home, you should call emergency services or the local authorities to officially confirm the death. You can then contact any known family members and close friends to inform them of the sad news.
- Locate Important Documents: Start by searching for essential documents, such as a will, insurance policies, bank statements, property deeds, and any other records that might provide insight into their financial affairs.
- Appoint an Executor: If your friend had a will, they likely appointed an executor to oversee the distribution of their estate. If not, the court will appoint an administrator. If you are designated as the executor or administrator, you’ll have the legal responsibility to manage the estate’s affairs.
Responsibilities of an Executor
- Secure Assets: Ensure the safety and security of your friend’s assets, including their property, valuables, and personal belongings. This can be a daunting task, especially in relation to an empty property. Empty properties are at risk to numerous problems, including, squatters, vandalism and general neglect. As executer it is your responsibility to maintain the value of the property.
- Notify Creditors and Debtors: Inform creditors of your friend’s passing to prevent any unnecessary accumulation of debt. Similarly, if your friend owed debts, communicate with the respective creditors to make arrangements for repayment.
- Inventory and Appraisal: Create an inventory of your friend’s assets and have them appraised if necessary. This inventory will be vital for the distribution process. A full asset search should also be undertaken at this stage. Asset searches locate any bank accounts, pensions, investment portfolio and so on across the UK. An asset search is highly important to maximise the estate and ensure no part of the state has been missed.
- Pay Taxes and Debts: Determine whether any taxes are owed and ensure they are paid from the estate. Additionally, settle any outstanding debts before distributing assets to beneficiaries.
- Distribute Assets: Following legal procedures and adhering to the will, distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified. If there is no will, all remaining beneficiaries must receive their inheritance in accordance with the rules of intestacy. Tracing said beneficiaries can be very difficult and in some cases impossible to members of the general public. Certain software and databases are only accessible to companies with legitimate interest, like Blanchards. This software aids in us in tracing anyone across the UK to their address and provides contact information. Non professionals will not have access to such software and therefore can find it very difficult to trace and contact the correct beneficiaries. This is all without mentioning the genealogical aspect of beneficiary tracing. This is why sometimes its best to hire experts.
Role of Inheritance Companies
In some cases, especially if you are unfamiliar with the legal and financial complexities of managing an estate, you might consider engaging an inheritance company. These companies specialize in helping executors and beneficiaries navigate the estate settlement process. Here are some instances when you might want to contact an inheritance company:
- Complex Estates: If your friend’s estate is intricate, involving multiple properties, investments, and valuable assets, an inheritance company can provide expertise in handling the complexities. Will searches, asset searches, beneficiary tracing, and handling the sale of the property are key tasks of inheritance companies and are best left to experts.
- Legal Guidance: Inheritance companies often have legal professionals on staff who can provide guidance on probate laws, tax implications, and estate distribution, ensuring you’re following all legal requirements.
- Reducing Burden: Dealing with an estate can be overwhelming, especially during a period of grief. Inheritance companies can alleviate the administrative burden, allowing you to focus on emotional healing.
- Mediating Disputes: If conflicts arise among beneficiaries or family members, an inheritance company can act as a neutral third party to help mediate and resolve disputes.
- Genealogy: Genealogy is a vital aspect of beneficiary tracing. Although performing genealogy is possible by the general public It is certainly best left to the experts. It is very easy to get the genealogy wrong and in doing so incorrectly distribute the estate to the wrong people. Inheritance companies are far less likely to make mistakes as we order certificates and have expert genealogists. However, even if we do make mistakes, we have missing beneficiary indemnity insurance which protects us from legal action and pays out the estate on our behalf. Without such protection, a non expert could be legally liable and have to pay out the missing beneficiaries with their own money. This can cost tens of thousands.
Handling a friend’s estate is a solemn responsibility that requires careful attention to both emotional and practical aspects. While the process can be complex, understanding your roles as an executor and considering the assistance of inheritance companies can help you navigate this challenging journey. Remember that seeking guidance from legal professionals or financial advisors is always a prudent step to ensure the proper management and distribution of your friend’s estate, ultimately honouring their memory in the best possible way. For more articles like this, please read our other blogs and follow us on LinkedIn.
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