Planning

Taking care of a deceased person's estate

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A guide to administering the estate of a deceased person and how to get help from HSBC.

Taking care of the estate

After someone dies, their estateEstate
The total value of everything owned by a person when they died – money, property and possessions – minus any debts they had.
is shared out to beneficiariesBeneficiary
The people who inherit all or part of the money or property from someone who has died.
according to the instructions given in the willWill
A document that states what someone would like to happen to their estate when they die.
. If there is no will, the laws of intestacy must be followed (for Scotland, the Rights of Succession will apply). Other inheritance or religious laws may apply depending on where the deceased lived or their religion.

If you are the personal representative, you can decide whether you want to deal with the estate yourself, or appoint a solicitor, bank or specialist probate service to do some or all of the work

Who is responsible for dealing with the estate?

The person responsible for dealing with the estate is known as the personal representativePersonal representative
The person who is legally responsible for dealing with the estate of a deceased person.
. Sometimes more than one person is responsible and they will act as joint personal representatives.

  • If there is a will, the person (or people) named as executorExecutor
    The person or people named in a will who have responsibility for making sure the wishes of the deceased person are carried out.
  • If there is no will, the laws of intestacy will decide who the personal representative is and how the estate should be distributed. The Government website offers further guidance on this.

What does the personal representative have to do?

To distribute the estate, the personal representative will need to:

  • Make an inventory of everything in the estate and work out the total value
  • Calculate and pay any inheritance taxInheritance tax
    Tax that is paid from the estate of a person who has died, before the estate is shared out to the beneficiaries.
    and other tax liabilities
  • Apply for probateProbate
    The legal term for giving someone the authority to manage the estate of a person who has died. In Scotland, probate is known as confirmation.
    (or confirmationConfirmation
    The term used in Scotland to refer to the process of applying for the right to deal with a deceased person's estate.
    if the deceased person lived in Scotland), if it is needed. If the deceased lived overseas you will also need to apply for similar court documents to allow you to deal with estate assets held in the UK. Depending on the value and type of asset held you may also need to apply for Probate in the UK
  • Collect all assets (such as shares and investments) and pay off any debts including mortgages
    and loans
  • Sell any property or investments that the will does not specifically transfer to someone else
  • Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

If the estate is small and probate isn't needed, the personal representative may be able to deal with everything within a few weeks. But, if probate is needed or if the deceased person owned property, the process can take longer.

What support is available?

If you are the personal representative, you can decide whether you want to deal with the estate yourself, or appoint a solicitor, bank or specialist probate service to do some or all of the work for you.

You don't have to make the decision immediately, and even if you start by managing things yourself, you can still get specialist support later on.

Doing it yourself – our Executors' Administration Account

If you choose to deal with the estate yourself, you may find yourself receiving and paying out large sums of money and having to keep track of a stream of transactions. One way to simplify the process, and keep all money separate from your own, is to open a dedicated Executors' Administration Account with HSBC. You get regular statements so you can keep a comprehensive record of all the money received and paid out, which can be helpful to share with the beneficiaries.

Getting professional help – our Estate Administration Service

If you decide you need professional help with the estate, we provide an Estate Administration Service. For a fee, agreed with you beforehand based on the complexity of the estate, our experienced team can take care of the entire process for you. Our specialists handle everything from interpreting the will to valuing the estate and managing tax issues. We then distribute the estate as required.

Talk it over with our friendly team

If you would like to discuss either of these services, or simply to talk through any part of the process that is unclear, our specialist Bereavement Support team is here to help. Call us on 0845 850 0088.

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Everyone's circumstances are different and what applies to one person may not be right for someone else. The suggestions above are based on a general assumption of each circumstance and they are not intended to provide advice or recommendation.

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