In short, the executor has a year in which to deal with the deceased’s estate. Beneficiaries are always keen to receive their legacies as quickly as possible, but the executor is not bound to distribute the estate before the expiry of one year from the date of passing.
The executor’s year is meant to give ample time for all assets and liabilities to be properly identified and to ensure everything is in order before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries. If the executor takes longer than a year to administer the estate the beneficiaries are entitled to interest on any outstanding legacies.
It is the executor’s responsibility to ensure all taxes, debts, funeral expenses and administration costs are settled properly before any distribution takes place. Time will be required to make sure this is done properly. If any are overlooked, then they become the personal liability of the executor. It should therefore be expected that an executor is going to be cautious.
An executor may wish to formally to advertise for creditors. This is done by placing a notice in The London Gazette and in a local newspaper covering the area where the deceased last resided. A period of just over two months is allowed from the date of the advertisement for the submission of claims. This action protects the executor from personal responsibility in case a debt arises after the assets have been distributed.
Particular caution needs to be exercised by the executor when it comes to dealing with government institutions. Government departments may be slow at responding to requests for up-to-date information. For example, the Inland Revenue may challenge the information provided for Inheritance Tax purposes. It is advisable for the executor to allow time for this to happen and they should wait at least 35 days after obtaining a Grant of Probate before distributing assets and on occasion as long as 6 months.
Where appropriate, the executor all needs to allow enough time for any claim to be made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Where a spouse, ex-spouse, partner, child., Stepchild or someone who was financially dependent on the deceased considers they have been left without ‘reasonable financial provision’ they can make a claim against the estate. Claimants have 6 months from the date of the grant of probate to do make such a claim.
In conclusion, perhaps beneficiaries now have perspective on why the executor would be cautious and thorough before distributing the estate.