Do I need to contact the taxman to get my late husband's savings?
Q: My husband died recently. Although he left me details of all his savings accounts, when I tried to withdraw the money from them, I was told that I need to get in touch with the Revenue Commissioners before any money can be released.
Is this right and will I be liable for any outstanding tax bill of my husband's which he may not have cleared before he passed away?
A: You should not have any difficulty using the money in those savings accounts if the accounts were in your joint names.
Simply produce the death certificate and the details will be recorded. If, however, the accounts were in your husband's sole name, a difficulty arises. If he left a will, then all of his assets, including bank accounts, form part of his estate and the banks will be obliged to freeze the accounts until the will has been admitted to probate. At that stage, the executors of the will give the banks instructions on how the money in the accounts should be distributed.
If there was no will, then you will probably have to apply for letters of administration to enable you to get access to the bank accounts. As part of this process, you will get a certificate from the Revenue Commissioners clarifying your late husband's tax position and if it is found that there is tax outstanding, this will have to be cleared. You will not be personally liable for any tax liabilities but any outstanding tax bill will have to be cleared before you can proceed to distributing the estate.
If you have no experience of handling such matters, or if you have no family member that could help, it would be good to consult a solicitor or financial adviser, who will take care of all the paperwork for you.
Q:I have been struggling with debt for the last three years and feel that bankruptcy is now the only option open to me. How long will it take for me to emerge from bankruptcy in Ireland should I go down this route and will it be possible for me to ever get a loan again?
A:The purpose of bankruptcy is to distribute assets fairly among creditors and protect you from these creditors. The distribution is done through a court official, known as the official assignee in bankruptcy, now under the auspices of the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI).
To be eligible for bankruptcy, you must show you have made reasonable efforts to avail of a debt settlement arrangement or a personal insolvency arrangement (two types of debt deals that can struck with creditors). A debt adviser known as a Personal Insolvency Practitioner must confirm this if it is the case.
As long as you meet the requirements, you will be automatically discharged from bankruptcy three years after the order issues. However, your name will remain on the register of discharged bankrupts. This register can be checked by lenders when they are deciding on a loan. Over time, and once you have established a relationship with your bank,there is no reason why you should not be able to borrow again.
Obviously, bankruptcy is a very serious option and it would be well for you to explore what other avenues may be open to you. The ISI website www.isi.gov.ie has detailed information on bankruptcy.
John Lowe is founder of Providence Financial Services and author of the best-selling 'The Money Doctor 2015'
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