It’s not a subject we like to dwell on but it is important to know what happens to our money after we die. Knowing the processes involved (and how long they take) is a great motivation to structure our finances in a way that makes it as easy as possible for our beneficiaries to ‘get the money’.
Should I have a will?
In short, yes. If you do not, your money and property is distributed in accordance with the rules set out in the Succession Act. If you do have a will (which all of the following assumes) your estate will be divided according to your wishes by your executor (usually your next of kin or your solicitor). But that process can still be lengthy …
What is Probate?
On death (most) assets are frozen and a Grant of Probate is necessary to administer the estate. Taking out probate basically means having the Probate Office certify that the will is valid and that all legal, financial and tax matters are in order so that the executor can be allowed to get on with the job of distributing the estate.
How long does Probate take?
The process can be very lengthy (over a year from start to finish) and stressful so is best left to the solicitor. To get to the point of Grant Of Probate requires lots of forms, documents, interviews and of course a fee.
Once your solicitor gets the Grant Of Probate, distribution of assets begins, but only after payment of debts and taxes.
How can I make it easier?
The trick is to try to keep assets out of the Probate system. Married couples should hold joint current and deposit accounts (and joint investment accounts) as the surviving joint owner automatically owns the funds (on production of paperwork). Ensure all your insurance policies and pensions have correct next-of-kin information. Keep a copy of your will and a detailed statement of assets at home and at your solicitor’s office. And have a read of Money Matters After A Death from Citizens Information.