If you’re acting as the executor of a will, before you distribute the estate to beneficiaries, and after you have gained grant of probate (or confirmation in Scotland), you will need to consider claims from creditors against the estate of the person who has died.
How can I tell if the deceased had hidden debts?
For most estates, even if you think you’re familiar with the affairs of the deceased, you can’t be sure that all creditors have been identified.
Many people now conduct much of their financial affairs online, and this poses a growing risk for executors of a will. Even if you had a close relationship you may be unaware of the deceased’s online accounts, including shop and credit cards.
As an executor, you’re liable for debts that belonged to the deceased, so you may have to pay these once they’ve been claimed and proved. You are covered, however, if you place a deceased estates notice in The Gazette and in a newspaper that’s local to where the person lived.
You can find deceased estates notices that have been placed in the London, Belfast and Edinburgh Gazettes here, as well as the latest list of newspapers by district. You can do this via The Gazette or contact newspapers direct.
Which laws does a deceased estates notice relate to?
In the UK, this protection from creditors and potential beneficiaries comes from a statutory advertisement that is referred to within the Trustee Act 1925 in England and Wales and the Trustee Act 1958 in Northern Ireland, as well as the Confirmation of Executors (Scotland) Act 1823.
While it’s not a compulsory notice, and not every executor places one, it’s recommended as an act of due diligence, and for the executor’s peace of mind.
How does a deceased estates notice work?
Once you’ve placed the deceased estates notice in The Gazette and in a newspaper, claims can be made for a limited period, namely for two months and a day.
After this time, you’re considered to have made enough effort to locate creditors and potential beneficiaries before distributing the estate. As the executor, you will not be held liable for any unidentified debts after this time.
Is placing a deceased estates notice essential?
It’s not a legal requirement to place a deceased estates notice, but it is advisable, and most solicitors place them as a matter of course (in a 2016 Gazette survey, 80 per cent of probate professionals always placed one if acting as professional executor).
If you don’t place a notice, and a creditor subsequently comes forward after the estate has been distributed, you may have to pay an unidentified debt, for whatever that amount may be.
How much does a deceased estates notice cost?
See the latest pricing for placing a deceased estates notice in The Gazette and in a newspaper local to the deceased here.
You can recoup the cost of the notice from the estate before assets are distributed.
When should I place a notice, and how do I do so?
You can place a deceased estates notice once you have at least one of the following as proof, where applicable:
• Grant of probate
• Letter of administration
• Death certificate
To place a notice in the Gazette, you’ll first need to register and then go to Place a deceased estates notice. If you don’t want to publish your personal address for claims, you can use a PO Box forwarding address.
For more information on what to do when someone dies, see The Gazette’s probate checklist.