Dealing with a bereavement – even one that may have been expected – can be devastating and overwhelming enough without the paperwork that awaits. You may not realise what is involved in administering a person’s estate until you have to do it yourself.
What is Probate?
When a person dies, the deceased’s estate (comprising money, investments, possessions, property etc.) must be dealt with and distributed to those entitled to it. To do this, a Grant of Probate (where the deceased left a valid will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (where no Will has been found) must be applied for at the Probate Division of the Royal Court. Both are legal documents which prove your authority to administer the estate either in accordance with the terms of the will, or in accordance with Jersey law.
Prior to a Grant being obtained, it is sensible to make initial contact with the bank to register the death and to freeze accounts. This ensures pension payments and direct debits stop. It is also your responsibility to ensure that any items of value (e.g. jewellery) are properly safeguarded.
Is a Grant of Probate required?
This will depend on what assets are held within the estate. If the deceased held assets jointly with you or another person, ownership may pass automatically to the survivor regardless of any will in place and probate may not be required. Where the deceased held assets in their sole name however, an asset holder is likely to request sight of a Grant before releasing the asset to you.
In the case of joint assets, sight of a death certificate will allow the bank to transfer the account into the survivor’s sole name. However, it’s important to be careful when handling the deceased’s assets before a Grant has been issued, as this could be considered intermeddling.
How do you obtain the Grant?
Apply directly with the Probate Registry. You will be required to submit a copy of the death certificate, the original Will (if applicable), a schedule of assets and valuations as at the date of death for stamp duty purposes (but only on assets held in their sole name, remember!). This will involve you sorting through the deceased’s papers.
The Registry will then arrange a further appointment with you to swear an oath in which you confirm that you will faithfully administer and/or carry out the contents of the will
Appoint another person or law firm to obtain the Grant and thereafter administer the estate on your behalf. This is often the preferred approach where an executor is not resident in Jersey.
Stamp duty is payable when an application for a Grant is made. The duty payable is calculated on the net value of the estate as at the date of death.
What happens next?
Once the Grant has issued, you can now contact various asset holders (banks, pension providers etc.) to formally register the death and request that funds be sent to an account nominated by you.
Then you can begin to settle any outstanding liabilities such as doctors’ bills and the funeral. If the deceased was a local taxpayer, the estate will be entitled to a Death Grant payment from Social Security. This payment can be offset against the funeral costs.
With all assets collected and liabilities paid, distribution can now take place in accordance with the terms of the Will or under the rules of intestacy. Under Jersey law, the period under which challenges can be brought against a Will is either a year and a day from the date a Will is registered with the Court or from the date of death. For this reason, distribution should not occur before the later of the two dates.
Take action now
Knowing what is involved, we suggest that now would be a good time to consider who you would want and trust to administer your estate upon your death.
This article is intended only as a brief introduction to Probate and Estate administration. Should you find yourself appointed as an executor under a Will or should a loved one have died without a will in place, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible so you can be guided through the process.