Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling with the administration of a loved one’s estate.
In February 2020 my father in law died unexpectedly. The following day, my husband and I (who were executors) went to his house and collected together all of the paperwork we could find – several boxes full, and over the next few days, I attempted to put all the information into some kind of order.
I am the head of the private client team at Tanners. I have dealt with countless probate matters, both as a solicitor for the deceased’s executors and as an executor myself. I enjoy probate work. I like the attention to detail that is required, I enjoy the technical aspects and I get satisfaction from doing something that alleviates the burden on grieving friends and relatives. Because of my day job, it made sense that I should administer my father-in-law’s myself in my personal capacity, and that is what I fully intended to do.
However, the days passed and for some reason, I found it impossible to get started on the tasks that I knew needed to be completed. I found myself rearranging papers and writing copious notes, but not actually making any progress. We were then hit with the first national lockdown and for a few weeks, every waking moment was taken up with making sure that my team was coping with remote working and that our clients’ needs were being met. Dealing with my father-in-law’s estate became a bête noire that I felt increasingly guilty about neglecting.
Eventually, I decided that the only way the estate would be dealt with was if we instructed a professional to help us. I asked one of my team members to act for us, handed all the paperwork and my notes to her and immediately felt an immense sense of relief! She handled the matter brilliantly and dealt with all the slightly unusual aspects of the estate (including the need for an urgent application for a grant ad colligenda bona) efficiently and sensitively, and notwithstanding the pandemic, the estate was wound up in just over a year.
Everyone handles the death of a loved one and the ensuing grief differently. Some of my clients appreciate the distraction of dealing with the estate administration, and prefer to do much of the work themselves, just coming to me to answer specific questions, to help with the inheritance tax return and calculations and/or to make the probate application. Others find that they are almost paralysed following the bereavement, and no matter how competent or knowledgeable they may be, they find it impossible to deal with the administration. My father-in-law’s death showed me that I belong firmly to the second group, and my decision to instruct my compassionate but completely emotionally uninvolved colleague was the best one I could have made.
If you are an executor and you need help, regardless of where you have got to with the estate administration, do reach out to me or one of the members of my team at Tanners so that we can assist.
Anna Freeland is a partner in our private client team.