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Unadministered estates

Posted on 09th November 2021 in Probate & Wills, Later Life Planning

Posted by

Gráinne Staunton

Partner and Solicitor
Unadministered estates

It can often be the case that, due to grief or worry, people leave dealing with a loved one’s estate until several years after their death. The language of ‘Probate’, ‘intestacy’, ‘Inheritance Tax’ and ‘Executors’ can feel very alien and daunting. As practitioners, we are familiar with the requirements for managing someone’s estate and the necessary steps to take to try to make matters as simple as possible. Often, advice taken soon after someone has died is all that is needed to make matters understandable, and to reassure and enable family members to deal with an estate successfully.


How do you go about administering an estate where the death was several years ago and nothing has been done since?

If the situation is left, and no action is taken for some time, it can often be the case that remedial steps will be required in future. We quite commonly need to assist relatives in trying to sell their family home in cases where appropriate action was not taken on the death of a previous owner. Needing to apply for Probate of a family member’s estate, in order to enable family to proceed with the house sale, can be a very difficult and taxing process on top of the usual stress and pressure of a house sale. The delays involved in obtaining Probate may also have an impact on whether the house sale can progress in the expected timescales.  


What can be done?

To obtain Probate for a death which took place many years ago, the same information must be submitted to the Revenue and to the Probate Registry as for a death which took place recently. The passing of time can make it more difficult to obtain the values the Revenue requires for the assets and debts owned by the deceased as at the date of their death. If a significant amount of time has passed, specialist professional advice may be needed to ensure the correct tax rules are applied to the estate and also to ensure that appropriate values are submitted. This can trigger professional charges arising which may, otherwise, not have been necessary. 

Leaving matters unadministered for several years after someone has died can also create difficulties in distributing the assets of the estate. The Executor or Administrator of the estate will be responsible for locating and identifying all the appropriate beneficiaries and ensuring that they receive their entitlement. As families dissipate and friends move away over the years, this can cause significant difficulties. Professional heir hunters can be used in difficult cases but that can, again, increase the costs in the estate. 

Taking appropriate steps soon after the death of a loved one is always the best way to proceed with matters.  Nevertheless, here at Tozers, we acknowledge that this step isn’t always possible for a variety of reasons. We are experienced in dealing with estates where no action has been taken for years after someone has died. We can guide you through the steps required to efficiently manage an estate in these circumstances. 


Find out more

For further advice and help with estate administration, please contact our dedicated Probate and Wills team who will be more than happy to help.

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