There are many things that can go wrong when administering a deceased person's estate - often executors can find themselves incurring very expensive personal liabilities through their innocent actions - A recent case (referred to below) encountered by another firm of solicitors highlights just one of the many problems that can arise
"A lady came to our office and wanted a certified copy of her dad’s will made. I went down to speak to her and she said she was trying to sort out her dad’s affairs. The pension company had requested a certified copy of his will as she was reluctant to put the original in the post. One glance at the will revealed it was a home made Will and it had been made in 1999.
As I glanced through the Will the lady chatted away and said her dad made the will during his marriage to her mum. She added that after her mum died her dad remarried. In response to my next question she told me the wedding was in 2007. After I had broken the bad news to her that the marriage in 2007 had cancelled the Will that her Dad had made in 1999 I asked how big the estate was. She said that, to date, she had collected in nearly one hundred thousand pounds from various Banks and financial institutions.
So , armed with a Will which had been cancelled by the marriage that took place 9 years ago, this lady had collected in large sums of money from a number of financial institutions who had taken it at face value and the lady was about to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries mentioned in the now invalid Will."
Had the lady distributed the estate in accordance with now invalid Will she would have been personally liable to the true beneficiaries provided for under the Rules of Intestacy now that her late Dad had died without a valid Will.
As a lay executor are you aware of your potential personal liability to creditors,the period in which claims can be made against an estate and your personal liability if you distribute the estate before the period for claims to be made has expired , or the fines and penalties that you can incur if you incorrectly complete the Inheritance Tax return. These are just a few of the potential pitfalls for the "lay executor"
At Thompson & Jackson we have a team of sympathetic and specialist probate lawyers who will be able to guide you through this minefield. For further information call Simon Stevenson on 01752 665037