Applying for probate

Probate is simply the legal term given to the process of administering a deceased person’s estate.

We offer a variety of legal advice and services for executors and/or beneficiaries relating to probate, ranging from :-

  •   fixed fee guidance to help with completing the probate application
  • advice and services for the  entire estate administration process where the assets and liabilities are complex, inheritance tax may be payable or there may be missing beneficiaries or trusts involved.

Our approach is flexible ensuring that you have the level of help and support you need rather than a "traditional" approach of only offering to deal with the whole matter at a percentage cost of the value of the estate.If you are an executor or an administrator of an estate and need probate solicitors in North London or London generally, please do get in touch.

Legal advice for executors

Your basic role as executor, whether you were appointed in the will or are a relative who agrees to take on the role of administrator where there was no will. is to collect in assets, pay off liabilities including any inheritance tax, possibly transfer or sell assets and then to distribute assets. Some probate matters are straightforward, others involve significant legal and practical challenges such as where there are numerous beneficiaries, disputes between or with beneficiaries, complex assets or liabilities.

Given that a very significant proportion of the UK population do not make a will, we can also advise and assist on the rules governing administration of the estate and distribution of assets contained in statutory rules known as the Intestacy rules.

Executors are not legally required to accept their appointment and can renounce their role. Commonly executors are family members of the deceased who may also be beneficiaries under the will. Due to the technicalities of probate law or, all too commonly, family disagreements or disputes, executors may instruct probate solicitors and lawyers to assist with the administration and help with applying for probate.

If you need advice of any kind, whether at the outset or as and when a problem arises during probate, we provide an experienced and cost effective service. It is especially important to recognise that if you make a significant error which is potentially negligent, you may be personally liable as executor or administrator, which is another good reason to get good legal advice on any issue of concern. Doing so may well protect you at a later stage.

The Probate Process

When somebody dies, there is a period, pending probate, when nobody has the right or obligation to represent the deceased legally. Assets (including property) in an estate will remain frozen until the Probate Registry gives legal authority (via a document know as a Grant of Representation) to the individual(s) nominated in the Will as executors, to deal with the deceased's legal matters.

If there is a Will, the estate will pass to the people named in the Will. If there is no Will certain rules known as the Rules of Intestacy will apply.

The probate process, depending on many factors but not least the type and number of assets and availability of information and supporting documents, can take from months to years.

Aside from dealing with the initial issues of funeral or other arrangements, the initial role, aside from applying to be appointed as executor or administrator is to establish whether inheritance tax may apply and to investigate the assets and liabilities of the deceased. Both of these tasks are interlinked. Assets will need to be formally and independently valued in many instances, such as where there is a property, by several established local estate agents.

Executor's duties

An executor’s duties include drawing up accounts providing all the details of assets and liabilities and possibly to enable any necessary tax return to be completed. The executor must also:

  • Inform next of kin, close family and any potential heirs of the death and of his/her/their role as executor.
  • Possibly appoint a solicitor.
  • Obtain copy of will and carry out instructions within.If necessary, register the death and assist with funeral arrangements.
  • Ensure assets are listed and if necessary made secure, for example, locating house keys and locking property.
  • Gather all financial paperwork such as cheque books, bank statements, paying in books, credit card details, building society books, mortgage details and any cash.
  • Locate any life insurance policies and paperwork such as membership forms, shares and stocks, bonds and pension information.
  • Find all household bills including those that are unpaid.
  • Collect together all tax records. At this stage do not dispose of things such as business related paperwork, tax records, wage slips etc even if they appear to be out of date.
  • If the deceased person is a business owner all paperwork relating to the business including VAT records and accounts will be needed.
  • Gather details of professional advisors such as accountants, solicitors etc.
  • Complete a tax return if needed.
  • Pay off any outstanding debts.
  • Locate beneficiaries and possibly creditors and possibly advertise in local or national papers for any missing beneficiaries.
  • Distribute the assets after payment of liabilities, including any tax.
  • Executors should set up an account solely for the purpose of dealing with the estate so that any money paid to the estate is easy to see.

Is a Grant of probate always needed?

There are circumstances in which a formal grant may not be required, notwithstanding that it is always a safer to obtain one. Generally, if a deceased had very limited assets, it is possible that a Grant may not be needed, and the below factors may help in determining whether one is needed:

  • Has a bank or insurance company, National Savings or Government body, holding the Deceased's money or policies or pensions, asked for a Grant?
  • Did the Deceased own property (house, land & buildings) at the date of death and which was not held as 'Joint Tenants'?
  • Did the Deceased have more than £5,000 in total Estate left at the date of death?
  • Did the Deceased have foreign money or property at the date of death?
  • Did the deceased have business interests, beyond just self employed trade?

How can we help ?

We can assist in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Help determine the size of an estate for Probate and Inheritance Tax purposes
  • Prepare an application for the Grant of Representation on your behalf and help lodge the required forms with the relevant organisations to collect monies  due to the estate and settle any outstanding debts
  • If a deed of family arrangement saves tax we can advise and guide
  • We can arrange the transfer or sale of any shares and work with our Residential Property Team to handle the sale of any property or land owned by the deceased.

 

Maya Bhatiani
Head of Family Department
0208 951 6623