When a loved one passes away, dealing with the emotional impact of the loss can be difficult enough without considering the legal work. If you have been named executor of the Will, you will be responsible for a number of tasks that must be carried out following a death. From registering the death with financial institutions to the distribution of the estate and the payment of Inheritance Tax, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the growing list of practical issues.
At Pickering & Butters, our specialist probate solicitors are dedicated in helping executors through the process of estate administration. From straightforward situations to high-net worth estates and family disputes, our team are equipped with the experience necessary to help you through this challenging time.
Why choose Pickering & Butters’ probate solicitors?
We understand how difficult it can be to deal with someone’s estate right after their death. During a time that should be spent grieving , the last thing you need is a daunting to-do list. That’s why each day, our dedicated probate solicitors work to alleviate the pressure for our clients, providing comprehensive support through the process of estate administration to allow them the time and space to move on in peace.
Well known for our steadfast commitment to client care, our probate solicitors will always take the time to understand your unique situation before getting to work on the task at hand. Estates differ greatly not only in value, but in the history and family members tied to it, which is why each case requires a unique approach. When you instruct a member of our team, we will allow you to make the choice of how much support you need through the process. While some clients will only need a helping hand or advice regarding finances, others find that having a professional tackle the entire administration process is useful in relieving them of the stress and pressure that surrounds the situation.
Each member of our team boasts specialist knowledge, not only in Probate matters, but also in Wills, Trusts and Tax. We encourage you to take advantage of this, and aim to be available when you need us the most to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Teaming a sympathetic ear with a determined approach, our probate solicitors are here to help every step of the way.
Transparency and openness are important to us when explaining our fees for this work, so you will always be clear on the likely costs before you go ahead.
How can Pickering & Butters help with estate administration?
We appreciate the pressure that comes with being faced with so much to do at such a trying time. We offer an understanding approach, sympathetic advice, and a service that can be tailored depending on how much or how little you’d like us to do.
Our friendly, expert probate and estate administration team is on hand to help you with:
- Obtaining valuations of the assets and liabilities of the estate
- Preparing the Probate application papers and completing the HM Revenue & Customs forms required
- Paying any inheritance tax
- Obtaining a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration from the Court
- Advertising for potential creditors to the estate (if necessary)
- Collecting the assets to the estate and paying any debts
- Selling any property
- Collating income tax information
- Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries
- Preparing Estate Accounts to show a full breakdown of the monies received and paid out
Common questions about probate and estate administration
What is probate?
Probate is the process of obtaining authorisation to administer a deceased person’s estate. For most estates, this involves applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (if there is not a Will). Once you have obtained probate, you can then proceed with the process of estate administration which involves paying off the deceased’s debts, paying Inheritance Tax and ensuring the beneficiaries receive their inheritance.
Probate can only be granted to a person appointed as an executor under a valid Will or to someone who is entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy if there is no Will (referred to as an administrator).
How long does estate administration take?
The process of estate administration can vary in length depending on how complex it is in nature. If matters are straightforward, estate administration could be completed within 6 months. However, where disputes arise among family members or complications arise in the valuation of assets, the process is likely to take slightly longer.
After gaining an understanding of your situation, your dedicated probate solicitor will be able to provide you with an estimation of timescales involved.
When is probate not required?
If the estate includes property, such as a house or a flat, you will usually need to go through probate. Circumstances in which you may not need to go through probate include:
- If the estate is only made up of physical cash (bank notes and coins) and/or personal belongings
- If there is a property but it is owned as beneficial joint tenants. In this case, the joint owner will automatically get the deceased person’s share under the right of survivorship
- The amount of money owned by the deceased was relatively little. In these cases, the bank, building society, pension provider or other financial service may be prepared to release the money without a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
- You had a joint bank account with the deceased. In this case, you get all the money as the survivor
- There is not enough money in the estate to pay off the all debts, taxes and expenses (the estate is insolvent)
What is an executor?
If you have been named as the ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’ of a Will (often just referred to as a ‘personal representative’, you will be responsible for ensuring that the estate of the deceased is distributed in accordance to the wishes specified in their Will. Therefore, it will be up to you to ensure that each named beneficiary receives the inheritance detailed in the Will. The executor is also responsible for informing all relevant institutions of the death such as all banks and building societies where the deceased held an account.
It may be the case that you have been named executor alongside another party, and in fact, a person can name up to 4 executors within their Will. This can complicate matters slightly, as all executors will share equal responsibility. At this point, it’s up to you and the other executors to decide whether to appoint one sole representative or collaborate in the estate administration.
Do I have to act as executor even if I do not want to?
No, if you haven’t already started acting as an executor, you can give up all your rights to obtain a Grant of Probate.
Alternatively, if there are other executors, you can reserve your power. This allows the other executors to administer the estate and you can join the process later on if you want or need to.
How do you remove an executor?
If you are a beneficiary of someone’s estate and you believe that a personal representative is not administering the estate properly, you can apply to court to substitute or remove them.
With the right legal advice, it is usually not necessary to take this step. In our experience, it is often possible to negotiate a positive outcome. We can help individuals resolve estate administration disputes amicably, out of court in the vast majority of cases, saving them considerable time and expense.
For more information, visit our Contentious Trusts & Probate page.
How do you get a copy of a Will?
Before probate is granted, only the executors are entitled to get a copy of the Will.
One method of obtaining the Will is to check with the deceased’s solicitors as they may have it stored. If you have access, you could also check the deceased’s home. Alternatively, you could ask the deceased’s family and friends who may have been trusted to hold a copy.
If you still cannot find the Will but believe it exists, we can provide advice on methods for locating it, such as checking the Will Register.
How do you check whether probate has already been issued?
If you are not sure whether probate has already been issued, you can check the probate records. A new record will start around 14 days after probate is issued. If there is a record, you may also be able to get a copy of the Will if one is attached.
What if there is no valid Will in place?
If a person dies without leaving behind a valid Will, the laws of intestacy will apply. This means that it will be up to statute to determine how the estate will be distributed. If the person was married, the first £270,000 of their estate will pass automatically to their spouse. Where there is no spouse, this will be equally shared between their children or descendants. If there are no children, it will pass to the closest living relative.
Having no Will means that no executor will have been named to undertake the estate administration. That means a relative or friend (generally someone who will benefit under the laws of Intestacy) of the deceased will be required to apply for ‘Letters of Administration’, allowing them to legally distribute the assets of the estate.
If this situation sounds familiar, you will benefit from the comprehensive, tailored advice of our specialist probate solicitors. Together, we will discuss your options and determine the best course of action in proceeding.
How does Inheritance Tax work?
Inheritance Tax is charged at a rate of 40% on the part of an estate that falls outside of the deceased’s tax-free threshold. The current threshold is £325,000. Additional reliefs may also be available to reduce the taxable value of the estate.
For example, if the deceased’s estate is worth £400,000, Inheritance Tax will fall due on the £75,000 over £325,000.
There are many ways to reduce and even avoid Inheritance Tax during a person’s lifetime and this will need to be taken into account when completing the HMRC tax return. We can help you calculate Inheritance Tax and ensure the tax return is completely accurately.
What happens to inheritance if the beneficiaries have died?
If all the beneficiaries under a Will have died before the testator, then their estate will be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy. If there are no relatives under the Rules of Intestacy who can inherit, the estate may pass to the crown (but this is very rare).
If the beneficiaries die soon after the testator has died (before probate completed and they received their inheritance), it is possible for the beneficiary’s estate to inherit. For example, if a mother dies, leaving money to their son, then the son dies within 28 days of their mother, the son’s estate will inherit the money which in turn will pass to the son’s beneficiaries.
Do I need a solicitor for probate and estate administration?
The probate and administration process can be complicated requiring you to understand wordy legal documentation, completely take on the deceased’s finances and correctly calculate tax. Not only that, you are required to complete the process within a reasonable time frame and ensure the beneficiaries promptly receive their inheritance.
It is therefore beneficial to get specialist legal advice to ensure every step is completed correctly. We are able to handle the entire process on your behalf efficiently and cost-effectively and are happy to provide as much support as you need. Not only does this give you the best possible chance of a smooth experience, you will have the benefit of our professional support at a difficult time when you are grieving.