Distributing an estate accurately is not always easy

You have checked for all Assets belonging to the Estate, you have obtained the grant, sold all properties, paid all liabilities and all you must do now is distribute the remaining estate in accordance with the Will. Many people think this is the easy part of administration and it can be but there are still some potential pitfalls that Executors/Administrators may confront.

Can a minor inherit?

A minor (anyone under the age of 18) cannot receive their gift outright until they are 18. Any gifts made to a minor must be held by the Executors/Administrators (in the absence of appointment of independent trustees in the will) on trust until the beneficiary reaches 18 (or any other age (18 the minimum) stipulated in a Will.

Giving a minor beneficiary their gift early could leave the Executors/Administrators personally liable, particularly if anything should happen to that beneficiary before they reach the designated age.


If an Executor/Administrator distributes a gift to a bankrupt beneficiary, then again, they could become personally liable.

Distributing too early

It is only natural for an Executor/Administrator to want to deal with the Estate in an efficient and timely manner, particularly if there are eager beneficiaries keen to receive their inheritance. However, Executors/Administrators who distribute too early can leave themselves open and personally liable.

Claimants under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 have six months from the date of the Grant of Probate/Grant of Letters of Administration to bring a claim against an Estate and it is good practice to wait six months from the date of the Grant to distribute.

Complex and untraceable beneficiaries

Sometimes clauses in Wills are long and complex and difficult to understand, particularly if a beneficiary as passed away and the destination of their share is then unclear. Knowing whether their share goes to someone else (e.g. their children) or whether their share is shared amongst the other beneficiaries can be difficult to determine and if you distribute to the wrong beneficiary, again as Executor/Administrator you can be personally liable.

The most complex aspect is what happens if you cannot trace a beneficiary. It is not uncommon, particularly in cases where there is no Will and a large family, that information about a long-lost sibling or relative is scarce. It is the Executors/Administrators duty to do due diligence in tracing as much information about the beneficiary to determine what happens to their share.

Expert legal assistance from the start means that you will avoid these pitfalls and the risks which can arise.

RMNJ are always glad to discuss any questions you have without obligation and at first instance entirely free of charge.

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