Law Spot

Finances After Your Spouse has Passed Away

 

My father has died and my mother is worried. They had joint accounts and my father also had accounts and investments in his sole name. My mother thinks the joint accounts will be frozen and she needs to pay bills. What can she do?

 

This is understandably a difficult time and particularly concerning finances after your spouse has passed away. Please reassure your mother that she can continue to use any bank account held jointly with your father and the accounts will not be frozen. Your mother only needs to take in your father’s original death certificate to the local branch of the bank/building society (or post it to them). The accounts will then automatically be transferred into her sole name. She can continue to use any joint accounts in the same way that she has always done – nothing will change except the accounts will be transferred into her sole name.

 

Your mother may also be worried about settling the Funeral Account and needs to access funds from an account/s in your father’s sole name. Most banks or building societies will release a cheque or pay the Funeral Director directly by bank transfer on sight of the funeral invoice. However, all assets in your father’s sole name will be frozen apart from payment of funeral expenses and Inheritance Tax (IHT) if applicable. The banks will authorise the payment of these. If your father has left assets over £5,000 in his sole name, then it is usually necessary to obtain a document known as a Grant from the Probate Registry. This will enable the estate to be collected in and dealt with. 

Gaynor Cooke

Gaynor Cooke

Partner and Head of Wills & Probate

If your father made a Will then the Grant is known as a Grant of Probate. However, if your father died intestate (i.e. without making a Will) then the Grant is known as Letters of Administration. To obtain a Grant it is necessary to establish the value of all your father’s financial assets and liabilities. By completing HM Revenue Inheritance Tax forms will establish whether the estate is subject to IHT and claiming any IHT exemptions that can be made. Settlement of any tax payable and preparing any probate documentation to submit to the Probate Registry to apply for a Grant:

  • Ensures the accuracy of all the documentation
  • Finalising income tax affairs and pensions
  • Collecting in the estate from banks, building societies and selling or transferring assets
  • Distributing the assets collected in accordance with the Will

If your father died intestate, then his estate will be dealt with under the statutory order of distribution.  This is dependent on differing factors.

As the above process shows, dealing with an estate can be more complex than you may first imagine.  Harold G Walker Solicitors can guide and assist your mother in dealing with obtaining the Grant and the administration of your father’s estate with a professional approach. This team of experienced probate solicitors can offer you peace of mind together with a friendly and efficient service.

For further information on finances after your spouse has passed away or any other matter regarding probate, please contact the Wills & Probate team.