Death and Personal Representatives: Distribution and vesting of assets: Personal representatives: distribution of assets: introduction
The personal representatives have a duty to distribute the assets of the estate to the legatees. Normally this is not done until the personal representatives know all the facts about the estate and can see how to deal with the distribution of all the remaining assets. Therefore it is done when residue is ascertained or at some time thereafter. However in certain circumstances personal representatives may distribute some of the assets of the estate before residue is ascertained.
The final stage in the distribution of assets involves passing the legal title to the legatees. This is done by the personal representatives giving an assent to the assets vesting in the legatee. In the case of chattels there may not be a written assent but merely delivery of the asset to the legatee. For other assets a written assent may be given. But sometimes an assent has to be inferred from the actions of the parties. However an assent in respect of the legal ownership of land must be in writing, but see CG30940.
Even though the personal representatives have not finally ascertained residue they may reach a point where it is clear to them that they can distribute certain assets without prejudicing their position. Quite often they will do this with specific legacies and they may sometimes also do this with certain assets comprising part of the residue of the estate.