When someone dies, their financial affairs need to be dealt with.

This is called ‘administering the estate’ and the procedure will depend upon whether the deceased left a Will.


If the person who has died leaves a will, it will usually name one or more people to act as the executors of the will. In many cases the executor of a will needs to apply for a grant of probate to enable the administration of the estate to proceed. A grant of probate is an official document issued by a section of the court known as the probate registry.


If there is no will (known as dying intestate) the process is more complicated. An application for a grant of letters of administration (an official document, issued by the court) will need to be made. The person to whom letters of administration is granted is known as the administrator and they will have the legal right to deal with the affairs of the person who has died. The right to be administrator is determined by a set order of priority and will usually be a close relative of the person who has died, if there is one. There may be more than one person who has an equal right to do this.

Inheritance Tax

The personal representative (whether executor or administrator) is responsible for ensuring payment of inheritance tax. The rules applicable to inheritance tax are complex but broadly whether inheritance tax needs to be paid depends on:

  • How much the property of the deceased was worth when they died
  • The nature of the property owned by the deceased
  • The value of any gifts that they made in the 7 years before they died
  • The value of some trusts from which the dead person perhaps benefited
  • Which people benefit under the will or under the rules of intestacy (the beneficiaries).

Quantifying a person’s likely inheritance tax is an essential part of  family wealth planning and you may wish to refer to HMRC’s website for details of the relevant calculations .

We can assist our clients in identifying tax planning opportunities to reduce their estates’ likely liability.


Every estate is unique and time scale for completion of an estate administration will vary markedly. Many organisations may be involved in the process, for example, banks, building societies, insurance companies and HM Revenue & Customs.

We are conscious that clients wish to see estates dealt with swiftly and we will seek to keep you informed of progress throughout. However it is important that matters are dealt with correctly and the estate cannot be dealt with until all claims to it have been received. There are many variables which will influence timescale and indeed cost so it is important to discuss these when preparing your Will.