Getting organised – collecting and recording information
Inform, and gather information
The process of informing people and institutions of the death and collecting information about assets will start almost immediately. You may need to inform local suppliers (e.g. milk deliveries) or secure assets (e.g. ensuring property is insured) quite quickly. This is often the most time consuming phase in the administration of an estate. The institutions you will be dealing with will differ in the way they handle your requests and not all of them are as efficient as they should be.
Except for the very simplest of estates it’s really important to be organised and to keep records of calls made, letters sent and received and valuations where appropriate. We have experienced this ourselves and have put together a series of useful letters which you can download. These are included in the Templates section. More importantly there is a document entitled Assets and Liabilities Checklist in the templates section which can be used as a prompt to make sure all matters are addressed and to keep a record of correspondence and telephone calls made.
For very simple estates you may be able to manage without keeping records. Perhaps the deceased lived in a care home with only personal possessions. Possibly everything the deceased owned was in joint names, or the total value of the estate is under £5000. Be careful, however, to make sure all debts are paid or accounted for before distributing the assets. If an institution does not reply to your letter do not assume you need take no action.
For any estates that are even moderately more complicated you would be very wise to keep tidy records. Communication with financial institutions mostly needs to be done in writing and often it will extend over several weeks. It’s not a good idea to rely on memory. The chances of missing something important are high if you don’t keep records. It can also be very stressful trying to remember information and reconstruct exchanges possibly months after they happened.
Whatever method of record keeping you choose, the one thing that you should always have is a list. This should contain details of every person and organisation you communicate with. For non-financial organisations you can use our checklist as a starting point. For banks, building societies, share registrars and other institutions you will need to create a list as needed. You can get addresses and telephone numbers links within this site and the “Links” tab on the main menu.
Copies of your letters and the replies to them should be stored in an organised way. A simple way is to have an A4 envelope for each company or a ring binder with plastic sleeves. These might also be able to store the historical documents relating to each company. If the volume of documentation is likely to be higher, one or more A-Z expanding files would be good. The discipline of re-labeling the tabs will pay dividends.
You should also keep a record of any costs incurred so that you can reclaim them from the estate.
Executor’s bank account
Maintaining a separate executor’s account is highly recommended. You can quickly get into a mess if you allow estate money to be mixed with your own. When all your duties are finished you will need to provide a set of estate accounts to the beneficiaries showing all the money that has been collected and where it has gone to. This is much easier to balance if your executor’s account can be closed with a balance of zero.
Ideally when you report the death the deceased’s bank will freeze the deceased’s account but convert it to “Pers Reps of …” and allow you to pay in any cheques received. On presentation of the Grant the account should be changed to “Executors of …” and unfrozen so that you can access the funds. Unfortunately each bank appears to behave differently and sometimes inconsistently. If the deceased’s bank refuses to convert their account then the next best place to try to open an executor’s account is probably your own bank. Again, it should be possible to open a Personal Representatives account before probate is received which you can pay into but not withdraw from. You will need proof of your identity, a copy of the death certificate and possibly a copy of the will. Once probate is received you will then get withdrawal access.
Executors’ accounts rarely pay any significant interest. Banks will occasionally offer linked savings accounts which pay interest but if this is not offered, and you are going to have large amounts of money in the account for an appreciable time, you could open an ordinary savings account elsewhere and transfer money to it when you get the Grant. Contrary to popular belief it is not fraudulent or illegal to have this in your own name, but as mentioned earlier be very careful not to mix the money with your own – things just get too complicated.