Probate & Estate Administration
When someone dies in England or Wales, the money, property, investments and personal effects they leave behind are known as their estate. Depending on the type of assets they owned and their value, legal authority is often needed before you can deal with the estate, which may include closing bank accounts, cashing in investments, selling or transferring property, and distributing the assets in accordance with the deceased person’s Will.
What is Probate?
Probate is the word that describes the legal and financial processes involved in dealing with the property, money and possessions of a person who has died.
Before the next of kin or Executor named in the Will can claim, transfer, sell or distribute any of the deceased’s assets they will in all likelihood have to apply for Probate.
Once Probate has been granted, the next of kin or Executor can start to deal with the deceased person’s assets in accordance with their Will. If the individual died without leaving a Will, the law will determine who should receive everything.
Probate may not be needed if:
- the deceased owned their property and assets jointly and equally with another person. This is because the assets will pass directly to the other person. This is most common where a husband and wife, or partner, are the joint owner of the family home. When one owner dies, you should provide the death certificate to HM Land Registry so the legal rights to the home can pass fully to the other person.
- for a small estate, many banks will not require a grant of Probate to access the money in the deceased person’s account. This is generally if the person had less than £5000 in their personal accounts. This is only really the case where the person had no land, property, or shares.
- the person was insolvent, and had more debt, tax, and other expenses to pay than the value of their assets
There are other, limited circumstances where Probate may not be needed, and we can advise on this. However, Probate is needed to deal with the vast majority of estates.
The Probate process
Our Probate specialists are highly experienced solicitors who can guide you through every step of the process with patience and sensitivity. This includes helping you to negotiate the complex rules and procedures involved in administering an estate, to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible. For example:
- When dealing with a person’s estate, you need to value the estate, primarily for the purposes of Inheritance Tax. To that end, we can start by helping you to collate all the information needed to value the deceased’s assets and liabilities on the date they died.
- Next, we can help you to prove the validity of the Will, or if no Will exists, we can explain what this means for the potential beneficiaries.
- We can then help you to obtain a Grant of Probate, which gives you authority to distribute the deceased’s assets. This will typically involve filing an Inheritance Tax return (we will advise on whether any tax and other allowances have been properly taken into account) and making an application to court.
- Once either a Grant of Probate (to the Executor/s named in the Will) or Letters of Administration (to the next of kin when there is no Will) are issued by the court, the estate assets can be collected, and any property sold. Outstanding debts will be paid and the balance of the estate distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will, or in accordance with the default legal rules, known as the intestacy rules, where there is no Will.
Unfortunately, sometimes disputes can arise in relation to the distribution of someone’s estate. This kind of dispute typically arises when people don’t receive what they had expected and believe there has been an issue with the Will or the Probate process. You can find more information here about our work on inheritance disputes.
The legal costs involved in administering an estate will depend on the complexity of the estate, the extent to which you want us to run the process, and whether we have been appointed as Executors in the Will. For a transparent overview of our charges for Probate services, please see our Probate costs summary page.
How can we help?
Please contact us if you would like more information about our Probate and estate administration service, and a no obligation quote from our experienced, sympathetic Probate solicitors.