‘Probate’ is the name of a document issued by a Probate Registry which authorises those named in to wind up an estate and distribute all the assets. Some estates can be wound up without Probate.
Our solicitors and probate experts can guide you through the probate process. See our Probate FAQ below.
We therefore 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 us.
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.
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.
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.
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