‘Probate’ is the name of a document issued by a Probate Registry which authorises those named in a Will to wind up an estate and distribute all the assets. Some estates can be wound up without Probate.
There are certain tasks that executors and personal representatives often ask us to undertake on their behalf to help them with the estate administration process. We therefore offer several probate packages which can be found here in our Probate Solutions document. Alternatively, we can provide a custom solution to offer you the help you need. If you would like further information or advice, please contact us or complete our Probate Questionnaire and one of our team will get back to you.
Our solicitors and probate experts can guide you through the probate process. See our Probate FAQ below.
What is an estate?
The word ‘estate’ tends to conjure up images of stately homes and the landed gentry, but this word is used to describe everything you own when you die. We all have an estate, and it usually consists of a combination of assets such as property, personal belongings (including cars, jewellery and household items), investments such as shares, ISAs, bank and building society accounts, premium bonds and National Savings, Life Insurance, pensions, annuities and so on.
What is estate administration?
When someone dies their assets need to be identified and financial institutions notified of the death. Next, the appropriate tax and debts should be paid, and the remainder distributed in accordance with the Will. If there is no Will, the legal rules on distribution (called the ‘Intestacy Rules’) should be applied instead. These steps and actions are called administering the estate, and sometimes the phrase ‘probate’ is used as a catch-all term for this process.
Our Probate Solutions document sets out in more detail the various steps that you may want us to undertake in the administration of an estate. You can pick a package that suits you or ask us for a customised solution. If you would like to discuss the estate, then you can send us your contact details here. You can also complete our Probate Questionnaire with details of the estate and we will arrange for one of our team to contact you.
What are executors and personal representatives?
As an Executor, you are responsible for administering the estate. If there is no Will then the administration can usually be undertaken by the next-of-kin of the deceased, and instead of being called an executor they are called the ‘administrator’. A Personal Representative is a catch-all phrase for both an executor and an administrator.
As personal representative you have a legal duty and responsibility to administer the estate correctly. If you fail to do so you may find yourself personally liable to make good any loss the beneficiaries suffer. That is why lay personal representatives often ask us for professional help to administer the estate to ensure it is done correctly.
What is a Grant of Probate and why do I need it?
The Grant of Probate is evidence that the executors have authority to administer the estate. When a bank is notified of the death it will very often hold onto the funds until they see Probate. Probate is the evidence the bank needs to be certain they are handing over the deceased’s money to the right person(s).
In the case of selling a property, you will need to produce the Probate to the purchasers. No-one will buy the deceased’s property from you unless they can be sure you have the legal right to sell it.
The process of obtaining ‘probate’ is different in nearly every case, and depends on the assets in the estate, the number of debts, whether there is inheritance tax to pay and so on. Therefore, the length of time it can take to obtain Probate can be different as well. Our solicitors will take details from you about the estate and should be able to give you a timescale at the outset.
What is Intestacy?
When someone dies without a Will, the law dictates who inherits their estate. These laws are called the ‘Intestacy Rules’ and the person is said to have died ‘Intestate’. The Intestacy Rules usually provide for the next of kin to inherit the estate, but they are complex, so advice needs to be sought before making any distributions. They also set out who is entitled to administer the estate.
Will there be inheritance tax to pay?
This will depend on the value of the assets in the estate and the exemptions and reliefs that may be available. We can usually give you a basic assessment of whether inheritance tax may be payable or not during our initial discussions.
One of the first steps in administering an estate is to identify the assets and value them so it can be established whether inheritance tax is payable. HMRC have very specific requirements for what assets are included, and how they must be valued. Our advisors will help you do this. We can instruct property valuers, obtain share valuations or more complex valuations of businesses and farmland etc. We will apply all the relevant exemptions and reliefs to ensure that any tax liability is minimised and advise you on how to pay inheritance tax from the deceased’s assets if that is necessary or to postpone payment where possible.
How much will it cost?
The costs for administering an estate depends on the type of assets, the value of those assets, who is inheriting the estate and if there is inheritance tax. It will also fluctuate based on the amount of work you want us to do on your behalf, and what you may be prepared to do yourself. Below we set out a number of case studies to give you an idea of what our fees might be for the packages in our Probate Solutions document.
Case Study 1Spouse inheriting property, bank accounts and shares (no IHT)
Probate Solution 1
Fixed fee of £2500 plus VAT
Mr D passed away in 2020 leaving a Will in which he appointed his wife as Executrix and left his entire estate to her. Mrs D had been asked for a Grant of Probate by one of the companies in which Mr D held some shares. She approached Kreston Reeves Private Client LLP to help her obtain a Grant of Probate. She advised us she felt comfortable in dealing with the other aspects of the estate administration herself, so she opted for Probate Solution 1.
Mr D had the following assets:
- 2 properties
- 1 bank account
- Premium bonds
- State pension and one private pension
- Small number of shares in a plc
How we helped
We visited Mrs D at home to review the estate paperwork, advise her on the probate process and help her decide which Probate Solution she wished us to undertake.
Mrs D was able to provide us with much of the information needed, including date of death valuations for the bank account, premium bonds and pension information. We advised Mrs D on how to obtain probate valuations of the properties and shares, which she subsequently passed on to us.
After reviewing the Will and the asset information we advised that there was no inheritance tax to pay. This meant we could use a simplified Inheritance Tax Return utilising the spouse exemption for Inheritance Tax.
We prepared the Inheritance Tax Return based on the information and valuations which Mrs D provided. We also drafted the Grant of Probate application and visited Mrs D at home once more to go through the paperwork with her.
The Inheritance Tax return was submitted to HMRC and no queries were raised. The application for Probate was submitted and issued three weeks later. We passed sealed copies to Mrs D who then arranged to transfer the shares into her name and close the various accounts.
Case Study 2Beneficiaries inheriting property, bank accounts and shares (no IHT)
Probate Solution 3
Initial estimate £6500 plus VAT but increased to £8000 plus due to additional work
Mr H died in April 2020. His Will appointed his niece as Executrix and left his estate in percentage shares to 10 different beneficiaries. In this case, the Executrix opted for Probate Solution 3 following an initial meeting as she felt she did not have the time or expertise to administer the estate herself. Probate Solution 3 is usually charged at our hourly rates plus VAT and disbursements, details of which are set out here in our Charging Summary. This estate is representative of most of the estates we deal with at Kreston Reeves Private Client LLP.
The assets included:
- 1 property
- 2 bank accounts
- Premium bonds
- Portfolio of quoted shares
- 2 Insurance policies
- State Pension
How we helped
The Executrix registered the death and made arrangements for the funeral. One of our team met with her to discuss the probate process, following which she instructed us to deal with the administration on her behalf under Probate Solution 3. We collected all the estate paperwork from her, reviewed it to ascertain the assets and liabilities in the estate, notified all account holders of the death and obtained valuations of all the assets and liabilities for probate and Inheritance tax purposes. We also contacted all the utility companies to ensure that they sent utility bills to us and arranged unoccupied property insurance to protect the property.
We were able to advise the Executrix that, based on the value of the estate and the exemptions that would apply, there would be no Inheritance Tax to pay. We completed a simplified Inheritance Tax Return on this basis and prepared and applied for a Grant of Probate.
Once we received the Grant of Probate, we were able to close the deceased’s accounts, sell his assets and pay the proceeds in to our designated client account.
The Executrix also asked us to arrange the sale of the property, including instructing and liaising with estate agents which we did for an additional fee as it did not fall within the scope of services in Probate Solution 3. We assessed and advised on whether Capital Gains tax (CGT) would be payable on the sale of the property. We implemented steps to mitigate the CGT liability which saved the beneficiaries £20,000 in tax.
Our Tax Team prepared Income Tax calculations for dividends and interest and we paid the income tax due from the cash in the estate.
We provided the Executors with a detailed Estate Account at the end showing the receipts into the estate and payments out, together with the sums due to each of the beneficiaries. We handled all the payments to the beneficiaries including obtaining the identification, payment information and the necessary receipts.
The Executrix was pleased with how quickly we dealt with matters. She was relieved that all of the issues were successfully dealt with in house, including the Inheritance tax, income tax and CGT.
Case Study 3Complex high value estate with numerous beneficiaries (IHT to pay)
Probate Solution 3
Fees in the region of £65,000 plus VAT
Mr P died in 2018. We were approached by the Executors to assist them with a particularly complex estate, being both high value and having complicated Will provisions. The Executors opted for Probate Solution 3 which is usually charged at our hourly rates plus VAT and disbursements, details of which are set out here in our Charging Summary.
The deceased had the following assets:
- Total estate value in excess of £8 million
- 5 bank accounts
- Premium bonds
- NSI savings certificates
- Multiple large and complex investment portfolios – including quoted and unquoted shares
- Significant antiques, works of art and items of significant cultural and historical value
In addition the Will included over 50 legacies and the remainder of the estate was to be divided unequally between over 20 beneficiaries. It also included a 10% gift to charity and therefore qualified for a reduction in the rate of inheritance tax.
How we helped
Following an initial meeting we advised that significant Inheritance Tax would be payable and identified various exemptions and reliefs to reduce the tax liability. The Executors opted for Probate Solution 3 as they felt they would need significant support and assistance to administer the estate.
We contacted the companies holding the deceased’s assets to obtain information and valuations. We used specialist third parties to value the antiques and works of art who were able to advise on the complex Heritage assets relief and Acceptance in Lieu scheme.
Using this information, we prepared the Inheritance Tax Return which included claims for Business Property Relief, Heritage assets and the Acceptance In Lieu scheme, gifts out of income reliefs, Transferable Nil Rate Band and a claim for a reduced inheritance tax rate as 10% of the estate was left to charity. We also arranged insurance for the executors which would cover some of the legal costs for dealing with any HMRC queries (called a Compliance check).
We arranged direct payment of the Inheritance Tax from the deceased’s bank accounts and investments. We negotiated with the fine arts specialists and the Arts Council to agree the valuations and reliefs available under the Heritage relief and Acceptance in Lieu scheme which involved placing pieces of art in various museums in the UK.
We prepared the application for a Grant of Probate using the information provided and, once the Grant was issued, we sold the assets, cashed in the shares, and held the funds received on our designated client account. Our Tax Team completed the necessary Income Tax returns, and we settled the Income Tax and Capital Gains tax due directly with HM Revenue & Customs.
We advised the clients and answered all queries to the satisfaction of HMRC when a Compliance check was raised on the Inheritance tax account. We claimed back some of the legal costs of dealing with the Compliance Check under the executors insurance.
We applied for Statutory Notices for the protection of the Executors, to ensure that they would not be personally liable for any liabilities arising from unknown creditors.
We made numerous interim payments to the beneficiaries to distribute the estate over a period of time in a tax efficient way. We also recalculated and distributed the estate in accordance with a number of Deeds of Variation which were put in place by some of the beneficiaries.
Finally, we provided the Executors with a comprehensive Estate Account showing the receipts and payments, together with the final sums due to each of the beneficiaries. We handled all the payments to the beneficiaries, including confirming over 70 beneficiary identities in various countries.
The Inheritance Tax exemptions we identified and applied for saved the estate £1.4 million of Inheritance Tax. We were able to thoroughly and efficiently handle this complicated estate ensuring that the Executors were properly protected throughout.
Who will deal with my matter?
We have offices throughout Kent, Sussex and London from where we act for executors and personal representatives all over the world. Your case will be handled by our Probate experts who have extensive legal and practical knowledge by visiting you or seeing you in one of our offices.
We offer several Probate packages and a flexible range of ideas. If you would like to discuss a particular case with us or obtain a fee estimate please contact using the form below or complete our Probate Questionnaire.