Probate and Administration of Estates

What is Probate?

Probate is the general term used by most people to describe the legal processes used to administer an estate after someone has died. This means someone, usually the Executor(s), has to identify all of the potential beneficiaries, call in all of the assets, pay all of the debts, account to the taxman for any tax due and distribute the estate as dictated by the Will.

Who can apply for Probate?

For someone to be able to deal with an estate they need to gain a “Grant of Representation”. The purpose of the grant is to confirm the validity of any Will or that the deceased died intestate and to provide authority to the personal representatives of the deceased, to deal with the estate. Probate is the most common of the 3 types of grant available, and is given where there is a valid Will and valid executors.

What if there is no Will?

If there is no Will, then a “Grant of Letters of Administration without a Will” can be granted according to the Intestacy Rules. These rules show how an estate will be distributed when there is no Will, and also who will be given precedence to apply to deal with the deceased’s estate.

Is Probate always required?

1. Assets held in joint names

Probate is not normally required to deal with assets held in joint names. For example a property registered in joint names can pass directly from one spouse to another or a bank account held in joint names.

2. Small Estates

If the estate is quite small, generally under £20,000 and there is a Will, you may not need to gain Probate. Most banks and building societies will release funds if you can show proof of ID, a copy of the death certificate and the Will proving you are the beneficiary. However, if there is no Will and there is any doubt as to the beneficiaries, you will need to gain some form of Grant of Representation (Probate).

How to deal with Probate?

Dealing with an estate can be quite a complex process, however there are some common steps and we have listed these below:

  • Register the death at the local probate registry
  • Arrange to pay for the funeral, this can be done via the deceased’s bank account, as they have an obligation to release funds for a funeral on the presentation of an invoice from the funeral directors.
  • Value the deceased’s estate, this will include house valuations, valuations of personal effects, collation and valuation of financial portfolios etc
  • Prepare the correct IHT (inheritance tax) forms and pay any IHT due
  • Apply for the grant of probate using the probate application forms with the local probate registry
  • Register the grant of probate with any relevant institutions
  • Transfer the ownership of any property and close any accounts
  • Complete any required income tax return or capital gains return on behalf of the deceased
  • Pay any debt or liabilities owed by the deceased
  • Collect any money or property owed to the deceased
  • Pay any expenses incurred
  • Prepare final accounts for the estate
  • Distribute the estate in accordance with the will or intestacy rules

How long does it take to gain Probate?

This varies greatly depending on the complexity of the estate and how long it takes to collate all the information you need to fill in the probate and IHT forms. It will then take between 4-6 weeks to gain the Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry and then it could be another 12 weeks before you can attend the registry office to swear the oath. All-in-all it is not a fast process, however, it is possible to expedite it by using a solicitor.

Why use a Solicitor to deal with Probate?

There are many situations when Probate can become complex and confusing and when the advice and experience of a specialist solicitor can be a great help. If the estate is over the Inheritance Tax threshold (presently £325,000), it may be worth at least getting some initial advice from a solicitor.

It generally takes someone approximately 20 hours to deal with the probate of a medium sized estate and this doesn’t include the time it will take them to research the probate process. This means when an estate is quite large with many different types of assets, debts and several beneficiaries, together with a complex IHT form to fill out, a solicitor’s services can be extremely useful. In addition we have listed a few of the other circumstances when it may be worth your while using a solicitor’s probate services.

  • Someone is thinking about contesting the Will
  • There is no valid Will or it’s being disputed
  • A beneficiary is thinking about making a claim on the estate under the Inheritance Act 1975
  • The deceased owned a business
  • The estate doesn’t have enough assets to pay it debts
  • Beneficiaries are challenging the probate process or require more information about the process and estate than you feel comfortable providing
  • The deceased left money in a trust
  • A beneficiary is under the age of 18
  • The deceased owned a foreign property
  • A deed of variation is required to change the Will after death

What are your next steps?

Routh Clarke have a great deal of experience in this area and Nick Routh has not only dealt with the probate process for clients, but has had to manage the probate of his parents, who died within one year of each other. They owned a farm, had just changed financial advisors and platforms, and so he personally understands the complications of probate and dealing with HMRC. This means he has a greater depth of understanding and empathy with your situation. Call him now to discuss how he can help you with your Probate.

We can help. Call us 01935 823883