We understand how difficult it is to deal with the probate law and the estate of a loved one following their death. Our staff are sympathetic and friendly and we will take the time to discuss the progress of the administration with you and make sure we are available to answer any questions you may have throughout.
After someone’s death, their executor or estate administrator is responsible for valuing and collecting in all of the assets in their estate, calculating and paying any Inheritance Tax, applying for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration, paying any debts, preparing detailed estate accounts and distributing the net estate to the deceased’s beneficiaries.
It can be a complex and time-consuming process, particularly if the estate includes a property that has to be cleared and sold. At Wells Burcombe, our experienced wills and probate solicitors can deal with an estate administration on your behalf, working proactively to ensure that the process is finalised without unnecessary delay.
What is probate?
Probate is the term used for administering someone’s estate after they have died. If they have left a Will, then it is usually necessary for their executor to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate, which is the document that provides them with the necessary legal authority to deal with the deceased’s affairs on their behalf.
How long does probate take?
Obtaining a Grant of Probate can often take between three and six months (or longer for more complex cases) as it is necessary to value the estate, then calculate and pay Inheritance Tax if any.
If payment of Inheritance Tax at this stage is difficult, we can advise you as to the options available.
Once the Grant of Probate has been obtained, the estate’s assets can be collected in and debts paid. The length of time this takes can vary substantially, particularly if there is a property to be sold. An estate will often take a year or more to be finalised.
How does probate work if there is no Will?
If the deceased did not leave a Will, then someone will usually need to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration which will appoint them as the estate administrator.
The person who makes this application is generally someone who will benefit from the deceased’s estate. The estate will be distributed in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy which set out a strict order in which family members will inherit.
By way of example, if someone died leaving a spouse and children, the spouse would inherit the first £322,000 of the estate, plus all of the deceased’s personal possessions and half of the remainder of the estate. The children would share the other half of the remainder equally between them.
Is probate always needed?
In some small estates, it might not be necessary to apply for a Grant of Probate. It will depend on the amount of assets held by the deceased and where they are held. All banks have a threshold over which they require sight of a Grant of Probate before closing an account and releasing funds. This varies from bank to bank, with thresholds of between £5,000 and £50,000.
Generally speaking, a small estate is considered to be one where there is no property and the estate is worth no more than £15,000.
For some banks, their limit applies to funds held in their accounts, while others will apply the limit to the whole of the deceased’s estate.
How much does probate cost?
The fee for obtaining a Grant of Probate is £215 where the estate is valued at over £5,000.
There will be other fees involved, depending on the individual estate. For example, where the estate includes a property, there will often be house clearance costs, estate agency fees and conveyancing costs.
For a guide to our probate fees, see our probate pricing page.
Do you need a solicitor for probate?
You do not have to use a solicitor to obtain a Grant of Probate or to wind up someone’s estate. However, the task can be quite onerous and dealing with the administration often involves a substantial amount of paperwork that can be time-consuming at what is often a difficult time.
An executor or administrator who carries out the administration themselves can also be held personally liable for any mistakes that lead to a loss for the estate, even if they were genuine errors.
For these reasons, those dealing with an estate often choose to pass the job on to professionals who have an in-depth understanding of the procedure and extensive experience in dealing with the more complex issues of Inheritance Tax, trusts and preparing estate accounts.
How do you find out the value of a deceased person’s estate?
The estate will need to be valued as accurately as possible so that the amount of Inheritance Tax due can be calculated.
The valuation is one of the first tasks to carry out in an estate administration. You will need to list all of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, as well as gifts of cash or valuable items that they made in the seven years before their death.
This is not always straightforward and will usually involve going through their paperwork in detail. Where the deceased had investments, such as life assurance policies or shares, you will need to write to the holder of the asset and request a valuation.
Valuable items such as cars, jewellery, furniture and art will also need to valued. Any property held by the deceased will need to be valued by an estate agent.
You will also need to write to creditors such as a mortgage lender, care home, credit card company, local authority or utility provider to find out how much the deceased owed.
Once you have the total of the assets and liabilities you will be able to calculate the net value of the estate and work out how much Inheritance Tax or Income Tax will be payable.
Can one executor of a Will act alone?
If someone has been appointed as the sole executor of the estate, they will act alone. If one or more executors have been appointed to act jointly then they will need to act together, unless one of them renounces the role.
If an executor wishes to renounce the task, then it is essential that they do this straightaway before they do anything in respect of the estate. Once they have carried out any work, they may be unable to step back and renounce.
Our probate fees
Our aim to provide a good quality probate service to anyone who needs it, so we make sure that our pricing is competitive. Our fixed fee probate solicitors can deal with straightforward estates so that you know exactly how much the administration will cost.
For more complex estates, we can discuss the issues involved with you and give you an idea of the likely costs before we start work.
For more information, please see our probate pricing page.