Locating Missing Creditors

As an executor or administrator, a big part of your job is to alert would-be creditors of the demise of the deceased.

A quick hunt of the deceased's papers should reveal most creditors' details as lenders are super-keen on sending reminders of how much money is owed. But your creditor-hunting job may not stop there, particularly if the deceased had complex financial affairs.

You have to let the wider world know of the deceased's demise by advertising. I don't mean taking a 30-second commercial slot in Coronation Street. No, follow the legally recognised way of informing the wider world of a death and take out a press advert.

Place one advert in the London Gazette (PO Box 7923, London, SW8 5WF, telephone 0207 394 4580). The London Gazette is ancient and has a tiny circulation, but it's traditional to list deaths in it and creditors know to keep an eye on its pages. Edinburgh and Belfast versions of the Gazette are published; check out the group's Web site at www.gazettes-online.co.uk for details about how to advertise. Also advertise in the deceased's local paper to give everyone a chance to know what's happened.

Locating Missing Creditors

An administrator is only permitted to advertise for creditors after being granted letters of administration. Executors, though, can take out an advert at any stage of the process, even prior to being granted probate.

Locating Missing Creditors

All adverts should clearly state the name and address of the deceased and an address to write to for anyone owed money by the deceased. Set a deadline for when creditors should put in their claim – two months after the advert is placed is usual.

Executors and administrators in Northern Ireland can protect themselves in the same way as those in England and Wales by advertising for creditors in the Belfast Gazette. In Scotland, the onus is on the creditors to discover the death and they have six months from the date of death to come forward. After six months, creditors are only paid if the executor or administrator still has the funds to do so.

Check out the notices section of your local paper for an idea of the style and wording of a death notice – hardly a thumping good read, I know, but worth the effort.

Locating Missing Creditors

Don't be tempted to do half a job. Locating missing creditors is a key part of your duties. If a creditor comes out of the woodwork late in the day it could throw all your plans and hard work in the air. Even worse, if the creditor can prove that you didn't take proper steps to let them know of the death, he or she could sue!

If a creditor does come forward after seeing your advert, check that the claim is legitimate and backed up with documentary evidence, such as a signed credit agreement – not 'I once lent him £5 in the pub and never got it back'!

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