It’s a topic that we generally don’t like to think about or at least not now anyway, maybe when the time comes…but all of us will experience a bereavement at some point, or maybe you are thinking about your children’s future, then do you know (legally) what to do? Read on to find the answers to some common questions…
What to do after a bereavement?
If you do experience a bereavement, the days after are difficult; then, you are faced with the task of sorting through paperwork and possessions. There are certain documents you should try to locate a will, trusts and any title deeds.
What is a Will?
It’s estimated that 36% of the population in Ireland does not have a Will in place! A Will is a written declaration of a person’s wishes for the distribution of his/her estate and belongings after death. At least one executor (whom can also inherit under a Will) is appointed to make sure that the estate is distributed according to the wishes of your late loved one.
The absence of having a Will in place can leave difficulties and confusion for your family members left behind — planning now Will help in the future. For more information on making a Will click here.
How do I know if there’s a Will?
When a solicitor prepares a Will, they advise the client to inform someone that they made a Will. In many cases, this person is the executor of the Will. If you think a Will has been made but the location is unknown, you should contact the deceased person’s or family solicitor to check if they hold a copy, and possibly check with any other local solicitors. Sometimes, an advert is placed in law publications to locate a Will (Attempts are being made to establish a centralised Will Resister in Ireland).
If there is no valid Will, the person is said to have died intestate and their estate is distributed in accordance with rules of intestacy, this is based on a strict hierarchy of entitlement: surviving spouse/civil partner, children, grandchildren and so forth.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that allows the executor to deal with the estate and pass onto the inheritors, the authority to do this is contained in a legal document called a Grant of Representation – of which there are three types:
- Grant of Probate when there is a Will.
- Grant of Administration when there is no Will.
- Grant of Administration with will Annexed is required, if there’s a Will but no executor, or, the executor cannot act.
Then, the estate can be administered, and all financial and tax affairs organised. An application for Probate is made to the Probate office. There are fourteen District Probate Registries located outside of Dublin, locations are on Courts.ie.
Is Probate always required?
If the assets left are small sums (less than €25,000), the financial institution may release the funds without seeing a grant; this does not include immovable property (land, houses etc.) and you may be asked to sign an indemnity (it is advisable to seek advice from a solicitor before you sign anything). Generally, when there’s land, shares or property involved Probate is required.
How long does it take for Probate to be granted?
One of the difficult parts before Probate is granted is the collecting of all the documents required, assets and liabilities, outstanding debts etc., this may take some time to organise. Then, you are into the lengthy Probate process (an average of 16 months!), it’s a drawn-out stressful process that’s best left to your solicitor.
What to do if the executor is slow distributing the Will?
The duty of the executor is to distribute the assets within a year. If an executor has confirmed that he has the Will, but he has done nothing about it, and is not responding to your correspondence, contact your solicitor.
Can you dispute a Will?
A Will, Trust or Estate can be formally challenged during the Probate process – a process known as Contentious Probate or Probate Litigation. A relative or loved one may choose to challenge the Will or Estate, because there are concerns about it, or because an executor has behaved inappropriately. This can be complex and it’s best done before the Probate process, seek advice from your solicitor in this situation.
If you’d like further help with any of the information discussed above, fill out the Contact Us below, and we will get back to you as soon as possible!