It is more common than one might think, that a beneficiary named in a will, dies before the writer of that will.
In this instance, should the beneficiary have been their adult child, then that person’s claim to the estate is automatically passed to their children. If there are no direct grandchildren in existence (children of the deceased) or the beneficiary wasn’t their child, then any nominated assets are absorbed back into the estate.
Some more detailed wills, anticipate this scenario and add further instructions, often stating that if the beneficiary dies before the person, then their share of the assets will pass to another named individual.
The key to avoiding complications during the probate process is to ensure that the will is drawn up correctly and without ambiguity in the first place. This involves careful wording and additional clauses where necessary.
The role of executor brings with it a whole host of legal and moral responsibilities. Knowledge or experience of the probate process is extremely useful but for a first time executor, the pitfalls of ensuring that all debts are paid can be hazardous.
The first stage of the process is to go through all the deceased’s paperwork to pinpoint any outstanding bills, creditors, bank accounts, savings accounts and funds. Monetary gifts or additional income can often be identified through bank statements and will need to be declared to HMRC.
Next, turn your attention to their home. We often advise that it’s best to bring in a professional home valuation team, who can value the entire contents much more accurately and quickly than an executor.
If you’re not sure of what income they received and regular outgoings, then it may be wise to ask someone closer to the deceased who might have more information. An excellent defence tactic is to advertise in the press for anyone who feels they may have a claim to the estate.
Of course, all this takes time and effort, so we always recommend that executors use the services of a professional probate practitioner, who can shoulder the burden of this often enormous and stressful task.