Once it has been determined that a Grant of Representation is required and it has been obtained, it is now time to deal with the assets of the estate.
The first step is for the executors to decide what to do with each asset. Any assets that have been specifically gifted to a beneficiary will be given or transferred into the name of that beneficiary. Any asset that is not specifically gifted forms part of the balance of the estate. Generally, bank accounts and investment accounts are closed, and funds are transferred either into a lawyer's trust account or into a bank account set up in the name of the estate. Real estate and shares can be either sold or transferred into the names of the beneficiaries under the Will. Financial and tax advice needs to be sought before deciding whether to retain or sell assets.
Executors are also responsible for ensuring any debts the deceased may have had prior to their death be paid first before distribution to the beneficiaries.
A final tax return may also be required and if the estate earns taxable income during the initial stage of administration, then an estate return will be required.
We always recommend distribution of the estate does not occur until a period of six months has passed since the date of the Grant of Representation. This is the period in which the Will is open to challenge, and if there is a challenge during this time and the assets have been distributed, the executors can be personally liable for replacing them.
Provided there is no Will challenge during the six-month period and all the assets of the estate have been transferred into the estate and debts have been paid, then distribution can be made to the beneficiaries.
Ensuring that an estate is administered correctly often requires the advice and assistance of both legal and financial professionals. If you have been appointed as an Executor of a Will, please reach out to one of our lawyers and we can assist you.