It has recently been reported in the news that Santander has been fined nearly £33 million pounds for failing to pass on the assets of 40,428 deceased customers to their personal representatives and beneficiaries.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) concluded that they improperly retained a total of £183 million pounds, and did not cooperate fully with the FCA when investigations began in 2015. In particular they failed to identify all assets where the deceased had multiple assets, and communication with the deceased’s relatives and personal representatives was poor, which led to unnecessary delaying and distress.
When you are an Executor or Administrator (Personal Representative) of an estate, your duty is to identify and collect all the assets which the deceased owned, pay any debts and then to distribute the remainder of the estate to the relevant beneficiaries. You will be expected to carry this out in a reasonable timescale.
Most people will have Bank or building society accounts and as Personal Representative you will be contacting the institutions with which the deceased held accounts to obtain a valuation for probate purposes of known accounts, to identify any other accounts which the deceased held with them which you did not know about, and ultimately to arrange closure of the same.
It will be important for you to obtain accurate and complete information from them, to obtain the valuations quickly to prevent this causing delay in any application for a grant of probate or letters of administration and then, once you are in a position to instruct them to close the accounts, for them to do so and account to you for the closing balances and provide closing statements promptly. Checking these statements for historical transactions can also identify other unknown assets or creditors, or other issues which need to be dealt with.
Some banks and building societies will apply different processes in relation to accounts following a bereavement, which can make some of them easier to deal with than others.
Where you are appointed as a Personal Representative of an estate, you can instruct an experienced solicitor to act on your behalf to deal with these matters. This can give you the peace of mind of knowing that all reasonable steps have been taken to identify potential assets and liabilities, have been correctly valued, and to ensure that the institutions are responding in a reasonable timescale. This may be helpful if you feel you do not have the confidence or time to deal with these matters personally. In more complex estates, you may feel it particularly important to have the protection of legal advice, particularly if Inheritance Tax will be an issue, or there are awkward beneficiaries or family members to deal with. By taking professional advice you will also be able to ensure that all appropriate steps have been taken to protect you from personal liability in your role as Personal Representative.
At Jordans Solicitors we are proud to be a member of the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality (WIQS) Scheme. We also have specialist solicitors who are members of STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners). We are pleased to advise you in relation to any administration of estate issues. Our Wills and Probate solicitors are based in our Wakefield, Dewsbury, Horsforth and Selby offices. You can either call us Free on 0330 300 1103 or request a call back and a member of our team will contact you.