The austere lawyer settles himself at the head of the dining room table. The curtains are drawn as a mark of respect to the dear departed lady of the manor. The family shuffles nervously, aware of the presence of uniformed detectives and the funny little Belgian gentleman with the coiffured mustachios.
The lawyer shuffles his papers and begins. “This is the last Will and Testament of…” he intones.
It is a well-known scene to anyone who enjoys a good Agatha Christie mystery. But it is also misleading. To start with, we would hope that there will be no detectives involved, although sadly sometimes there are. Next, there is very rarely a reading of the Will, although we are happy to talk you through the terms. One thing is for certain, however, we at Turcan Connell are never austere.
When a family member dies there are a lot of things to consider. Letting family and friends know tends to be top of the list, followed closely by funeral arrangements. Amidst all the confusion and high emotions lawyers meetings are an unwanted distraction. And quite right. We should not be top of your list. Simply pick up the phone and let us know that the person has died. There is nothing else that we need from you immediately. We may have some information for you (if the person left funeral instructions which we are holding), but otherwise take time to breathe, spend time with family, arrange the funeral. There is no need to begin Executry proceedings immediately.
Once the dust has settled, it is helpful for us to have a meeting with the Executors (the people named in a person’s Will as being those responsible for dealing with their estate). If you don’t know who these people are, the person’s Will will confirm the position. It is also helpful for us to have contact with any close family or friends who had knowledge of the person’s affairs.
Perhaps the most common misconception of beneficiaries of an estate is that they will get their money quickly. Unfortunately, this is often not the case due to the length of the process involved before the Executors get access to a deceased person’s funds. The timescales involved are often those of an external organisation. So please bear with us. We are happy to keep you updated.
The first stage of the Executry process is to gain an understanding of the deceased’s assets and debts. It is much easier if we do this, although we will need you to provide an information or paperwork so that we know where to start! It is also important to know that when an asset provider (e.g. a bank) is informed of someone’s death, all those assets will be frozen. This means that nothing can happen until Confirmation (the Scottish equivalent of Probate) has been granted. It is also important to know that any mandate by the deceased giving some permission to do something on their behalf falls when they die. For example, you cannot continue to act under a Power of Attorney when the person who granted it has died.
When we have a full understanding of the person’s affairs, we will ask you to confirm whether you agree with all that we have found. It is important that you tell us everything you know, including about gifts that the person made during their lifetime, even if it seems irrelevant. If you agree the position, we will provide you with the Confirmation and Inheritance Tax Return Forms for signature, and arrange for them to be submitted.
Once Confirmation is granted the Executors can deal with the person’s assets. We open an Executry bank account, pay any debts, ingather the assets that are being ingathered and transfer the assets being transferred, all in terms of the person’s Will or in terms of legislation. We will also deal with the Executry tax, and produce a final account so that you can see all that has happened in a simple document.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is a traumatic experience. We can help carry the responsibility in a sympathetic, professional manner. We would be happy to discuss this further with you.