Dealing with a deceased person’s money and property
Here we explain the process of administering a deceased person's estate in Ireland, including:
- Executors and administrators
- Transferring land
- Beneficiaries abroad
Our document ‘What happens to the deceased’s estate?’ has information about:
- Rights of access to the deceased person's estate
- Rights of spouses/civil partners and family members
- What happens if the deceased person has not made a will
If there is a will and an executor has been appointed, then the executor deals with the estate. This means that they make sure that the spouse/civil partner is aware of the right to a legal right share and distributes the estate in accordance with the will and the law.
Executor or administrator?
In order to get authority to administer the estate you must get a legal document called a Grant of Representation. This is a legal order that gives you the authority to administer the deceased person's estate.
If the deceased person left a will, the person who deals with the estate is called the deceased person's 'executor'. The executor needs to take out Probate.
What is probate?
Taking out probate means having the Probate Office or the appropriate District Probate Registry certify that:
- The will is valid
- All legal, financial and tax matters are in order
Wills only take effect when the Probate Office accepts that the will is valid. The will is said to have been ‘proved’. The Probate Office may make some enquiries before making its decision, for example, it may require a sworn affidavit from one or both of the witnesses
If there is no will, the person who deals with the deceased person’s estate is called an ‘administrator’. An administrator may also be appointed if:
- There is a will but no executor has been appointed
- The appointed person cannot act as executor
- The executor cannot or will not carry out their duties
The administrator needs to take out a Letter of Administration (or a Letter of Administration with Will Annexed if there is a will).
Usually, the next of kin applies for a grant of administration. Priority is given in the following order:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Brother or sister
- More distant relative
The Probate Registrar will make a decision if there is doubt about who is entitled to be the administrator. The administrator must give an administration bond to the Probate Office - this is a sort of guarantee that you will carry out your duties properly.
The duties of the executor and administrator are broadly the same. If you are not sure about these roles, you should get legal advice from a solicitor – see ‘Do I need a solicitor?’ below.
What if I object to a grant of probate or a letter of administration?
Any person may oppose a grant of probate or a letter of administration. If you have an objection, you can object (called lodging a caveat) to the appropriate District Probate Registry or at the Probate Office.
Do I need a solicitor?
If the estate is complex, it may be better to appoint a solicitor.
A solicitor can complete the forms that are needed and give you advice on:
- The law on succession
- Taxes that might have to be paid by beneficiaries
- Debts that may have to be paid from the estate
- The deceased’s will and can help settle disputes
- Finding out what the deceased person owned
If you decide not to use a solicitor, you can make a personal application to administer the estate (see ‘How to make a personal application for probate or letters of administration’ below for information on how to do this).
The Probate Office will help with the probate process part of administering the estate. It cannot give you legal advice and you are responsible for completing the documentation you need.
You must use a solicitor if:
- The person entitled to get the Grant of Representation is a ward of court or of unsound mind
- The persons entitled to get the Grant of Representation is under 18
- There are issues concerning the validity of the will
- There are disputes among the next of kin about the estate
- The original will is lost
- A beneficiary of the will of more than €20,000 (apart from the spouse of the deceased) lives outside of Ireland and you also live outside of Ireland
- The deceased person lived outside of Ireland and nobody who lives in Ireland is entitled to get a Grant of Representation
- The deceased person lived outside Ireland and left a will in foreign language
- There are other circumstances which, in the opinion of the Probate Office, need the assistance of a solicitor
How to make a personal application for probate or letters of administration
To make a personal application you must attend in person. At any stage in this process the Probate Office or Registry may decide that a solicitor is needed to administer the estate of the deceased’s person.
You can follow this step by step guide to making a personal application:
Step 1 – Statement of Affairs (Probate) Form SA2
The SA2 is a Revenue form that must be completed online through either My Account or ROS. To make an application you will need:
- Personal details of the deceased person (including their PPS number)
- The applicant’s details
- Details of the beneficiaries, including the value of their inheritances and their PPS numbers
- Details of the deceased person’s assets (the things they owned) and liabilities (debts and things they owe money for) at the time of their death
- Information on assets passing outside the will or intestacy
- The will if there is one
- Codicils (changes) to the will, if there are any
- Copy of any previous Grants of Representation if somebody else made an application before you (this is called a De Bonis Non or Secondary Grant)
If a beneficiary does not have a PPS number because they live abroad, they should contact the Client Identity Services (CIS) section of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection using the CIS secure online request form or by phone at Lo-call 1890 927 999 or (071) 967 2616.
When the form is completed and submitted, you will receive a Notice of Acknowledgement (Probate) Form. You must print this and include it with your Personal Application Form
Step 2 – The Personal Application Form
You must complete the Personal Application Form and send it to the District Probate Registry or the Probate Office in Dublin (see ‘Further information and contacts’ below). You must include:
- The original death certificate (or a Coroner’s Interim Certificate of death if you have not received a death certificate yet
- A photocopy of the will and codicils if there are any (do not send the original will)
- If the deceased person lived outside of Ireland, you should also send a Court Sealed and Certified copy of the Grant of Representation and will (if there is one) which was issued by the country where the deceased person lived
The Probate Office or Registry may contact you to ask for more information or documentation. Once the Probate Office or Registry has everything it needs to proceed with your application, you will be given an appointment to meet with an official at the Probate Office or Registry.
Step 3 – Attending your appointment
You must attend the appointment in person. Your appointment will take place in private. You do not have to appear in a courtroom.
You must bring the following with you:
- Your photo ID
- The original will and codicils if there are any
The Probate official will look at your documents and may ask you some questions. They cannot give you legal advice. Another appointment may have to be scheduled if there are queries that cannot be settled at the first appointment. The official may ask you to withdraw your personal application and in some cases may tell you to get a solicitor to make the application on your behalf.
You will make an oath or affirmation before the official confirming all the details of your application are true.
The Probate Office or Registry will send you a Grant of Representation along with all the original documents you have given to the Probate Office or Registry. It will be sent to you by post. This usually takes around 3 weeks.
The Probate fee will be calculated based on the value of the estate.
What are the duties of executors and adminstrators?
You are obliged to distribute the assets as soon as possible after the death. You may be sued by the beneficiaries if you do not distribute the estate within a year.
You have a duty to preserve the assets of the deceased until they are distributed and to protect the assets from devaluation. For example, you should make sure that all assets are properly insured.
You have the power to:
- Deal with the estate (for example, to sell it to pay debts or distribute amongst beneficiaries)
- Represent the deceased in legal actions and to settle legal actions against the deceased's estate
- Gather together and protect all the deceased's assets such as money, shares and property and find out their combined value
- Call in any outstanding funds due (money owing to the deceased)
- Pay any debts or taxes owed
- Pay the funeral expenses
- Make sure that the spouse (or civil partner) and children know about their legal right share
- Make sure the entitled beneficiaries or next of kin get what they are entitled to, and that ownership of property is passed on correctly.
If the deceased was receiving social welfare
If the deceased was receiving a social welfare payment, you must inform the Department of Social Protection of the death before distributing the estate. This is to allow the Department to reclaim any overpayment of pension that may have been made. The Department has 3 months to decide whether or not an overpayment was made. If you fail to do this, you may be personally responsible to repay the overpaid amounts. You can read more about social welfare requirements in the Department's document on overpayment recovery.
Capital Acquisition Tax
The executor or administrator does not have to deduct and pay the Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) due from the beneficiaries before passing on the proceeds of the will to the beneficiaries. When probate has been granted, the Probate Office sends a copy of the Revenue Affidavit to the Revenue Commissioners.
The Revenue Commissioners will then issue a Form IT38 to each beneficiary who it understands may have a requirement to pay and file a CAT return. The obligation to pay and file a return rests with the beneficiary. See Revenue's Guide to completing the IT38 return.
Beneficiaries living abroad
Someone who is a beneficiary under an Irish will has to supply a Personal Public Service (PPS) number before a grant of probate can issue. The Department of Social Protection's Client Identity Services (CIS) provides a Registration Service for non-resident applicants who cannot attend at a designated PPS Registration Centre and who need a PPS Number. Client Identity Services can be contacted using the CIS secure online request form or by phone at Lo-call 1890 927 999 or (071) 967 2616.
If the deceased dies in debt
If the deceased person dies insolvent or there isn't enough money to meet the bequests (the items left to someone in a will) made, payments from the estate are prioritised in the following order:
- Funeral, testamentary and administration expenses. Testamentary and administration expenses are the expenses incurred in dealing with your estate
- Creditors who have security against the property of the deceased for example mortgage providers.
- Preferential debts – these are mainly taxes and social insurance contributions due at the deceased person’s death.
- All other creditors.
Where the deceased person dies in debt, creditors can only bring a claim against the estate of the deceased. Even if there isn't enough money in the estate to meet all the debts, the relatives of the deceased are not personally responsible for the deceased's debts (unless, of course they had guaranteed them).
You can read more about what happens to debts after death.
Can I get a copy of a will?
Once a grant of probate (or letters of administration) has been issued, anybody can apply for copies of the grant and the will using Form PAS1 (.doc). The grant sets out the name and address of the executor or administrator of the estate and the name of the solicitor acting on their behalf (if any). It also sets out the gross value and the net value of the estate.
Detailed information about the estate is not normally available to the general public, however, certain people may be able to inspect the Inland Revenue Affidavit. They include:
- A beneficiary who is named in the will
- Someone who is entitled to a share of the estate
- A child who is entitled to bring proceedings against the estate under Section 117 of the Succession Act 1965
Information on getting a copy of a will is available on the Courts Service website as well as in the information notes of Form PAS1.
Further information and contacts
The Law Society of Ireland has published a useful guide on the administration of estates (pdf).
Questions about taxation and the deceased person's estate should be addressed to:
Questions about probate issues should be addressed to your district Probate Office or: