What Happens When You Die?


Or more particularly if you’re the person tasked with dealing with someone’s estate immediately after they’ve passed away. If you’ve never had to register the death of a loved one/relative before it may seem daunting at first. Along with the grief, you now need to try and begin to deal with the deceased’s estate. Hopefully, this post will give a brief introduction to what must be done. (As in most cases the NI Direct website can be very useful.)

Once funeral arrangements have been carried out as per the wishes of the deceased the task turns to sorting out their estate. The death must be registered with the local authority within 5 days of the date of death, or in some cases where the death has been referred to the Coroner, a Coroner’s notification certificate will be issued. Administration of the estate of the deceased will break down into two possible processes:

1. When you have a Will.

You’ve drafted your Will, appointed executors and left your property and possessions as you’d like. What does an executor do once you’ve passed away? It’s up to the executor to collect in and gather your estate for distribution as per your Will.This requires a Grant of Probate to be extracted from the High Court. Once the Probate is received an executor is legally bound to administer your estate as instructed by your Will, and they can be held personally liable for not doing so. (No one will be forced to act as an executor against their wishes. Where they refuse to act as executor, this is known as renouncing executorship.)

2.You don’t have a will

If you die without a Will, you are known as intestate. An administrator will need to be appointed to distribute your estate (normally a close friend or family member.) The rules for distributing your estate can be found in the Administration of Estates Act (Northern Ireland) 1955 (if you want to revel in some wordy statute check out the link) and broadly can be surmised as your estate being distributed in the following priority:

  1. Spouse/civil partner,
  2. Children,
  3. Parents,
  4. Brothers and Sisters,
  5. Grandparents,
  6. Uncles and Aunts

(i.e. if no spouse/civil partner the estate shall go to the deceased’s children, if no children, the deceased’s parents etc)

The above list is an overly simplification and monetary limits apply where the estate is above a certain threshold and both a spouse/civil partner and children or parents survive the deceased. The solicitor will explain all of this to the administrator at the outset.

3.Small Estates Indemnity

I know, I know I said there were only two procedures however there is a third, hopefully solicitor-free, option for administering estates which are relatively small in monetary value. Usually occurring where there is no residential property and relatively low balance bank accounts, it may be that an executor or administrator can close the bank accounts without a Grant from the High Court (or the expense of solicitor’s legal fees)! The small estates’ indemnity estate limit varies from bank to bank and isn’t suitable for all small estates, but there is little point in expending legal fees to administer an estate, and lowering potential legacies from beneficiaries, in this case.

I hope you found this useful and as always, any questions ask them in the comments below or contact us!

Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be legal advice or research but if you do wish to receive advice on any of the content discussed please contact us on 028 3752 5400 and we will be happy to help you. Please note that whilst we will aim to provide accurate information the world changes at a fast pace so always follow up with your solicitor to ensure you are fully up to date with same.

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