Making a Will is not about wealth it is about making sure that what you want to happen to your estate does happen. It gives you the opportunity to specify such things as who will administer your estate, who will care for your children and who will receive specific items of your property.
Much annoyance to beneficiaries and probate solicitors alike might be avoided if only this concept were taught at primary school. In essence it means that executors have a year from the date of death during which they are not obliged to pay out to anyone other than the taxman and the undertaker.
This gives them time to ascertain assets and liabilities, deal with any problems and draw up estate accounts before distributing the funds to beneficiaries. Liabilities such as utility bills and debts will generally be paid before the end of the year, usually when the estate has been quantified and the statutory notices under s.27 Trustee Act 1925 have expired.
This period is not set in stone.
A modest estate might be wound up before the end of the executor's year but a large estate may well continue for a second or third year before the administration is finalised. A house may need to be sold. Foreign assets, ambiguities in the will, missing beneficiaries may all cause problems.
Where there are assets such as private company shares that require correspondence with a specialist section of the Inland Revenue, a considerable time may elapse before matters are settled.
Beneficiaries frequently complain of delay because they fail to appreciate the finer points of estate administration. They just want to spend their legacy and become annoyed at what they see as unwarranted delay in sending out the cheques.
In fact the executors would not be doing their duty correctly if they paid out before checking that all possible liabilities had been ascertained and dealt with. The last thing any executor wishes to do is to write and ask for some money back because an unexpected liability has arisen.
Wise executors pay heed to two time-limits in particular. The first relates to creditors.