We understand how difficult it can be to handle the legal and financial affairs of someone when they have passed away. Our Inheritance Protection team in Newbury, Thatcham and Maidenhead are here to support you. We can provide guidance in all relevant areas of probate, estate administration and taxation.
Our team are experienced in helping people that have never handled the probate or estate administration process before. We often advise on estates where there is no Will or if there are complex taxation issues or international assets involved. It is important that you understand your duties as an executor and can administer the estate effectively and in accordance with legal and taxation requirements. We can provide as much or as little support as you need during this time.
Probate is the term used for the process of administering someone’s estate that has passed away. This includes coordinating all of their assets such as selling their property, paying their debts and taxes and then distributing the rest of their estate to their beneficiaries. A Grant of Probate is a legal document issued by the High Court authorising the right person to deal with the estate of the deceased. This person will either be the executor appointed by the will or is the administrator if there is no will.
In most circumstances probate is required. It is not required when the estate is low in value or made up of assets owned jointly such as property or bank accounts as they will automatically pass to the surviving owner. Our team can provide more guidance as to whether probate is required.
If there is a Will it would normally include who has been named as an ‘executor’ and therefore who has the duty of administering the estate. There may be more than one person named. An executor must have mental capacity and not be a minor. If you have been appointed as an executor but for any reason either you do not want to fulfil your duties or if you simply require advice and assistance you can appoint one of our Newbury, Thatcham or Maidenhead solicitors to act on your behalf.
A grant of representation is a document issued by the court to confirm that specified persons (known as the personal representatives) are authorised to deal with a deceased person’s estate. There are various different types of grants of representation. Grants of probate (where there is a Will naming executors) and grants of letters of administration (where there is no Will).
For an executor to collect and distribute the estate’s assets it may be necessary to apply for a legal document called a Grant of Probate. This is issued by the Probate Registry and will give you the authority to handle the estate. To do this you need to determine the value of the deceased’s estate as at the date of death and any lifetime gifts made in the preceding 7 year period. This will include valuations of the deceased’s property, bank and building society accounts together with any investments and any personal possessions.
It will be your responsibility to administer the estate for the benefit of the beneficiaries by collecting all of the assets and settling all of the liabilities. With estates over the current inheritance tax threshold of £325,000, there may be an inheritance tax liability. In this case you will be required to complete an inheritance tax account known as an IHT400. Part of the inheritance tax liability must be paid on applying for the Grant of Probate. All executors named in the Will who wish to apply for Probate must sign the tax account.
You can read more about your duties in our Guide to being an executor.
If a person dies without leaving a valid Will, there is no one with immediate authority to administer the estate. Over half of the UK population have not made a Will so it is not unusual for this to happen. If a person dies without a Will they will be referred to as having died intestate. There is a different process to follow to establish who has the right to apply to the Probate Registry to be able to administer the estate (who is normally the next of kin). The Registry then issue what is known as a Grant of Letters of Administration.
Once you are appointed as the estate administrator you will have the legal right to handle their estate. You will then be able to collect their assets, pay tax and any debts and distribute any balance in accordance with the intestacy rules. Read more about your duties in our Guide to being an estate administrator.
You will usually get the Grant of Probate within about two months. However, this does depend upon the complexity of the estate and the return of documents by HMRC and the Probate Registry which may cause delays outside our control. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate the entire probate process timeframe will vary. Typically this can be at least 6 months to a year. For estates with international elements it can sometimes take as long as two years.
We often assist executors and estate administrators by helping them through the legal process and removing the burden at what can be an extremely difficult time. Our Newbury, Thatcham and Maidenhead solicitors often act as executors so they have the experience to assist you in your responsibilities. We normally recommend a meeting with the executor(s) or estate administrator early on so we can advise on the necessary formalities of the process and discuss how we can support you.
We have particular expertise with regard to inheritance tax and the opportunities available to reduce this liability. For instance, agricultural and business property reliefs and the potential transferable nil rate bands. Similarly, if the person who passed away was a widow or widower you may be able to make use of the transferable nil rate band available from their spouse’s estate. This would increase the nil rate allowance to £650,000. This will require a specific application to HM Revenue & Customs, together with details of the spouse’s estate (i.e. Grant of Probate), death certificate and marriage certificate. In addition the residence nil rate band may be available which can increase the total nil rate allowance to £1,000,000 in certain cases.
Often we handle the whole process and sometimes we are only instructed to prepare the tax and probate papers. We are able to give you a fee estimate from the very outset based on what you would like us to handle.
Please click on the grid below for a guide to the fees which we charge for the administration of estates. Our fees incurred are payable from the estate. Our team always provide details of our fees at the outset and keep you informed as the matter proceeds. Our full pricing policy can be found here.
Whilst the process may seem fairly straightforward complexities do often arise. It is always wise to take professional advice on the administration to ensure that you have fulfilled your duties correctly and that the beneficiaries are satisfied with the outcome. We have an inheritance disputes team with expertise in challenges to the validity of Wills and problematic executors if you need advice in this area.
If you would like support during the administration process please contact one of our inheritance protection team in our Newbury, Thatcham or Maidenhead office below.
You can start this process now by downloading and completing our Probate Questionnaire below. Once completed, please save it to your computer and then click the ‘Email questionnaire to GL’ button at the bottom of the form which will allow you to return it to us via email.Probate Questionnaire