As we all feel the pressures of rising costs, it is easy to forget the importance of ensuring that our families are provided for, should something happen to us. Wills are probably one of the most important documents we make, the contents of which have a...
Probate is the legal authority (known as the ‘grant of probate’ or ‘grant of representation’) that enables the Executor in a Will, or the person entitled to deal with the estate (if no will has been left), to deal with the deceased's affairs. Probate is usually required for estates in excess of £20,000 and until grant of probate has been obtained, it is unlikely you will be able to sell or deal with any of the deceased's assets. The grant of probate is always required if there is property to be sold.
Applying for probate does not have to be done through a solicitor but it is usually quicker and a solicitor will have the necessary expertise to deal with the estate. This is because there are many complex matters during the estate administration, such as tax affairs, dealing with property insurance, selling a property and managing investments. By instructing a solicitor the beneficiaries can be reassured that all matters will be dealt with correctly. It also avoids the possible risk of a potential family conflict.
Often it is the person who is bereaved who has been appointed as Executor and in those circumstances, applying for probate at such a difficult time can be extremely stressful. Many people name a firm of solicitors as Executor (either jointly or together with family or friends) and at Bakerlaw we are experts in dealing with estates and understand the processes and paperwork involved.
An Executor's responsibility is to take charge of all the assets of the deceased on behalf of the estate and those who will benefit from that estate. The Executor is fully accountable to the beneficiaries for his actions and is held personally and financially liable should the estate suffer any loss. An Executor's role is an onerous one and we can provide the necessary guidance.
What immediate steps should I take following a death?
The first thing to do is to register the death and arrange the funeral. A Will may include the deceased's wishes regarding cremation or burial and so as soon as possible the Will should be located. In many cases the deceased's home is their major asset and it is important to ensure that any property, if empty, is made secure and the insurers are notified.
What if I can't find a Will or there is no Will?
If a Will cannot be found then the estate will be dealt with under the Rules of Intestacy which means the law will decide how the estate is distributed. If you believe a Will does exist, Bakerlaw can help you to locate it by searching a national database and contacting solicitors in the area where the Will may have been made.
How long does it take to finalise the administration of a Probate matter?
It depends on the size and complexity of the estate. If the estate is liable for Inheritance Tax this can also extend the process as a full Inheritance Tax return needs to be completed and a Clearance Certificate obtained from HM Revenue & Customs before the estate can be distributed. On average the administration can take between 12 - 18 months to finalise.
What fees are involved?
An Executor incurs a number of expenses in his role including for example, death certificate fees, funeral account, Court fee for Grant of Probate, oath fees and professional fees. These can all be reclaimed from the Estate.
Our fees are dependent upon the complexity of the case and we are happy to discuss costs with you and give you an estimate before work is commenced.
We provide the following services to guide and assist you with dealing with a loved one’s estate after their death:
One off advice and checking service
This service is aimed at those executors that are dealing with probate personally and not through a solicitor.
We offer a one off fixed fee service that includes an appointment, generally of up to an hour, together with our advice confirmed in writing. At this meeting we can review the Will (if there is one) together with the estate’s assets and liabilities and advise you of the steps you need to take to deal with the estate efficiently to ensure all legal obligations are met. We can also review the probate papers that have been drafted or, alternatively, can advise you of the forms you need to complete and the information you will need to include.
We also offer this service to those that require advise/assistance on any other matter relating to an estate i.e. where a trust has been included in a Will and you are not sure how it should be dealt with, or you required advice on capital tax, estate accounts or other administration steps.
Obtaining the Grant of Probate only
If we are instructed to obtain the Grant of Probate only, the Executor will provide details of the value of all assets and liabilities at the date of death. We will then prepare the necessary papers and submit the same to the Court. Once the Grant of Probate has been issued this will be given to the Executors and they will deal with the remainder of the estate administration.
Dealing with the whole estate
Alternatively, we offer a service to deal with the whole estate i.e. ensuring every stage of the probate process is completed and all the Executor’s duties have been fulfilled. If we are instructed to deal with the whole estate we would:-
- Obtain the necessary probate valuations, if necessary.
- Prepare and submit the probate application to the Court
- Deal with all assets and liabilities
- Transfer assets into the beneficiaries names or, alternatively, collect in those assets or sell them on behalf of the estate
- Deal with all tax affairs and obtain tax clearance from HM Revenue & Customs for income tax, inheritance tax and capital gains tax
- Prepare estate accounts
- Make final distributions to the beneficiaries entitled.
If instructed to deal with the entire estate administration our charges are calculated according to the time spent by those who deal with your matter.
We will be able to provide you with a quote for the above services once we know more about your specific circumstances.
Our focus is always to provide you with peace of mind — for wills, powers of attorney, trusts and probate advice you can rely on, contact us online or at our Farnham office on 01252 733770 or our London office on 020 7842 0800.