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Administration of estates - Our practical solutions to impossible questions

View profile for Esther Woodhouse
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Administering the estate of a deceased loved one can be traumatic and even more so when faced with financial organisations that create obstacles to moving the administration forward. In this blog, Esther Woodhouse reaches out to those having had similar experiences and shares her own dilemmas as a professional dealing with the administration of estates.

Saturday 23rd April 2022: this was a usual weekend morning, the newspaper arrived, and I settled down with my first coffee of the day ready to relax into the weekend. One article headline grabbed my attention immediately; ‘Your late father needs to email us if you want a refund’. As a Probate Specialist in our Private Client team, this was not a phrase that surprised me, albeit is an all too familiar situation when administrating an estate that continuously makes me angry, particularly for bereaved families.

The article gave examples of the dilemmas and obstacles faced by bereaved families when dealing with certain organisations, which ranged from delays in closing accounts, bureaucratic obstacles for completion of paperwork, no access to reporting the death online, lack of consistency between banking organisations, difficulty in locating the bereavement team, requests to speak to the deceased and a general feeling that nobody had a real steer on what needed to be done. Reading through these life stories came as no shock to me. Whilst I am not saying that all financial/utility organisations are the same, sadly from my professional experience I have felt their pain, particularly when dealing with utility providers. When things do not go well although complaint procedures are available, the process is often protracted and the empathy for bereaved families and/or professionals acting on behalf of the estate can often be non-existent.

So, what is the solution?

In theory, it shouldn’t be a difficult fix if all organisations ensured they had a dedicated bereavement team with ease of access to contact, staff were fully trained, had empathy, and had a common-sense approach. Most of us will have experienced the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives and will know how they would wish to be treated in these circumstances.

Although there is a clear disparity in the way organisations/banks/utility providers deal with bereavement cases, as professionals with experience in dealing with estates we know what questions to ask, we know what information is required to progress matters and we have the skills to deal with the difficult situations that often arise, particularly in complex estates.

Instructing a professional to deal with the administration, whilst often seen as an additional or unwanted expense, can help to alleviate the frustrations that are often faced and more importantly takes the personal emotion out of the situation, which I find Executors/Administrators often find difficult to juggle between their legal duties and dealing with their personal grief. A recent client testimonial I received stated: "The professionalism and undertaking of legal necessities made that awful time much more manageable and I shall always be grateful to Esther for contributing something so positive and humane to my memories of that time". It was comforting to know my client had been spared the frustrations they could have faced and that I had helped during a difficult time.

If you are the appointed Executor/Administrator of an estate and are having any problems in progressing the administration of the estate, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you wish to discuss the matter further.

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