When a person dies leaving assets which they own (including house, land, money, shares, policies etc) this is called their “estate”. If the person has made a Will then their estate is dealt with according to their wishes as set out in their Will. In their Will they appoint an Executor and this person must carry out the terms of the Will. A Will is generally drawn up by a solicitor (an Irish lawyer) and stored by them.
For a Will to be valid
- The person making the Will must be 18 or be or have been married.
- The Will must be dated.
- The Will must be signed at the bottom by the person making the Will (the Testator/Testratrix) in the presence of two witnesses who are not getting a benefit under the Will (beneficiaries). If a person witnesses a Will then he/she cannot take a benefit under that Will.
It is not necessary for a Will to b prepared and signed in Ireland as long as these requirements are correct.
While there are no restrictions on who a person can leave their property to in their Will, the Law does say that a spouse (wife or husband) is entitled to claim as their right half of the estate if there are no children or one-third if there are children. The spouse can choose to take the family home in satisfaction of that share.
When somebody dies their assets are frozen. The key that unlocks the assets is a “Grant of Probate”. This is a document sent out by an office of the High Court after a process has been gone through. Nothing can be done with the assets until this document is received by the solicitor acting for the estate. Banks will not release monies and any change in the ownership of property cannot be registered until this document is received. The document formally allows the Executor(s) named in the Will to administer the estate and so to carry out the wishes of the person who made the Will. When this document (usually a certified copy) is given to the Banks they will release any money to the solicitors for the estate. When the document is produced to the Land Registry they will comply with the directions of the Executor(s) and will register the new owner of the property.
Where there is no Will
If there is no Will, the Court issues a Grant of Administration rather than a Grant of Probate. It is granted to one of the “next of kin” who are the closest family members. The estate is then distributed in accordance with the law. If there is a spouse and children, the spouse is entitled to two thirds and the children to one third between them. If there is a spouse and there are no children, the spouse will take everything. If the person is single and has no children the Law sets out who is considered their next of kin.
Administering the estate i.e. distributing the assets of a deceased person
The process of getting a Grant of Probate (or Grant of Administration) involves collecting details of all of the assets of the deceased person and completing various documents which are submitted to the Probate Office. This process will generally take two to three months depending on the amount of assets to be dealt with and the complexity of the estate. After the application is submitted, there is a significant waiting period (which fluctuates) before the Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration issues. After it is issued, it will generally take another three to four months to collect in the assets and distribute them to those who are entitled to them.
In the event that you are a beneficiary living abroad in relation to an Irish estate, your rights are the same as an Irish resident. In our practice, we frequently act for clients who are abroad and correspond by phone and email as necessary.
If you require any advice in relation to an Irish Estate, please contact Niall Farrell or use the “Do you have a case?” link at the top of this page for an opinion of your case.