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Wills & Probate | Legal Guides

After a person dies, his or her ‘estate’ (or assets) is administered by a personal representative. You can find information on the process involved below.

Talk to a solicitor

Nothing can adequately prepare us for the loss of a loved one. A lot of everyday tasks need attention and you may need to make important decisions about the deceased’s property and personal belongings. You can find information on acting as a personal representative here, but we recommend that you talk to your solicitor.

The estate

When a person dies, the deceased’s estate is everything they owned, except assets where ownership ceases on death or passes on automatically to someone else. After payment of debts, including outstanding taxes, the ‘estate’ is divided among the beneficiaries in accordance with the deceased’s Will. If there is no Will, the deceased is said to have died ‘intestate’ and the law decides how the estate should be divided among family members.

A personal representative

A personal representative is the person responsible for administering the estate (all a person legally owns at the date of their death) of a deceased person. He or she can be either an ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’.

Executors are the people named in the Will to deal with the estate. Where there is a Will but no executor, or where a person dies without having made a Will, this person is called an administrator.

Where there is no Will, the closest family member is usually the administrator. Where there is a will but no executor, the person entitled to the residue of the estate is usually the administrator. The ‘residue of the estate’ is any part of the estate not specifically identified and given away in the Will.  The role of personal representative, once you accept it is for life.

Administering the estate includes:

  • Identifying the assets (items owned) and liabilities (such as unpaid bills) of the deceased person.
  • Getting control of the assets.
  • Paying the liabilities.
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

The personal representative(s) make decisions about the estate, but they need to consult the beneficiaries of the estate each time they are making a decision that may affect them.

First steps

At the beginning of the process, it is important that you identify any legal and tax issues that may need to be dealt with. These are not always obvious and can result in a personal representative being held personally liable. For example, if you distribute the assets to the wrong people or without paying all the debts, you may have to pay the money to the right people or the creditors yourself.

  • Download a first steps checklist for personal representatives. [link to checklist]     

If you are a personal representative, and have any doubts or questions about your role, you should talk to a solicitor [anchor link].

Grants of representation

A ‘grant of representation’ is a legal document that allows the personal representative(s) to collect all assets of the deceased and administer the estate. The High Court Probate Office produces this document and sends it to the personal representative.

  • Where there is a Will and an executor, the personal representative should apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’.
  • Where there is a Will, but no executor, the personal representative should apply for ‘Grant of Administration with Will Annexed [attached]’.
  • Where there is no Will, the personal presentative should apply for a ‘Grant of Administration Intestate’.    

Until the Probate Office produces a Grant of Representation, the personal representatives are generally unable to deal with the assets owned by the deceased person. In limited circumstances, it may be possible to administer an estate without a grant.

Timeframes 

Although the law allows one year from the date of death for a personal representative to give beneficiaries what is due to them, the time it takes varies. It will usually be upwards of three months before a ‘grant of representation’ issues, but it can take longer. The following matters may affect the process.

Inland Revenue Affidavit

The size of the estate, and the time required to get all of the detailed information needed to complete an Inland Revenue Affidavit (CA24), will affect the length of time spent before it is possible to administer an estate.

The Inland Revenue Affidavit is a Revenue form which lists the value of the assets and liabilities of the deceased at the date of death. In certain circumstances, details of beneficiaries are included.

PPS numbers

If there is a delay in getting the PPS numbers for the deceased and the beneficiaries of the Will, particularly if any beneficiaries live outside the country, this may delay the process.

Previous gifts

If the beneficiaries have received previous gifts or inheritances, you will need to include full details of them in the Inland Revenue Affidavit.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

You need to find out if the deceased was on a non-contributory pension or received non-contributory benefits during their lifetime.

If they were, the personal representative should send a copy of the Inland Revenue Affidavit to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to find out whether or not the deceased was paid money to which they were not entitled.

If, for example, the Inland Revenue Affidavit showed assets and income that the deceased had not declared when applying for the non-contributory pension or benefits, some or all of the money paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to the deceased could be claimed back. If this happens, the personal representative is personally liable to the Department for this money. If a personal representative has already paid it out to beneficiaries, he or she can be sued by the Department for the money owed.

Likewise, if the deceased benefited from the Fair Deal scheme, the personal representative should send a copy of the Inland Revenue Affidavit to the HSE before distributing the estate. The same personal liability would apply if the HSE found that assets and income listed in the Inland Revenue Affidavit had not been declared by the deceased when applying for the Fair Deal scheme.

Taxes

Apart from any taxes payable by the deceased before their death, the personal representative will need to address the following taxes.

Income and capital gains tax

The personal representative is responsible for handling income tax and capital gains tax (tax on gifts and inheritances), which may arise during the administration of the estate. If the personal representative fails to make sure that the relevant taxes are paid, he or she is personally liable. This means that the personal representative will have to pay the relevant taxes.

Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT)

The personal representative must make sure CAT is paid where appropriate. CAT is a tax on gifts and inheritances. Tax reliefs, exemptions or both, may be available.

Previous gifts and inheritances

Your solicitor will advise you if previous gifts or inheritances received by a beneficiary should be considered.

For deaths before 2000

If you are dealing with the estate of someone who died between 18 June 1993 and 6 December 2000, then you may have to pay a tax (called Probate tax) from the assets of the estate.