Probate and Estate Administration

We understand that for many people the prospect of applying for probate and dealing with the administration of the estate of a loved one is an extremely stressful prospect. This is particularly so if there are already strained family circumstances.

Dealing with financial matters and tax issues can be daunting at the best of times and, at a time of recent bereavement, rather overwhelming. Whether you are seeking professional assistance with the completion of certain administrative tasks, some general advice or require a full probate service, our team of specialists have the expertise to help you.

What is Probate?

Probate is the ‘general’ term used to describe the process of winding up someone’s estate after they die. Probate covers both the situations where someone has left a Will, that is, they are testate or they have not left a Will, that is, they are intestate.

What is a Grant of Representation?

In order to deal with someone’s estate whether testate or intestate it is necessary in many (but not all) cases to obtain what is known as a Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry which is part of the High Court.

  • Where the deceased left a Will

The Executors named in the Will are entitled to take out the Grant of Representation which is referred to as a Grant of Probate. The Executors’ authority derives from the Will. In other words, the authority comes from the testator who specifically appointed the Executors to deal with the administration of his/her estate. The Executors are responsible for winding up and distributing the estate according to the terms of the Will.

  • Where the deceased died intestate

In accordance with the laws of intestacy the next of kin of the deceased will be entitled to take out the Grant of Representation which is referred to as a Grant of Letters of Administration. The persons taking out the Grant are known as Administrators and an Administrator’s authority to deal with the estate derives from the Grant. Administrators will be responsible for winding up and distributing the estate in accordance with the laws of intestacy.

See also Intestacy.

Do you need a Grant?

Not necessarily. It depends upon the circumstances. It will not be required:

  • If the estate is worth less than £5,000 in value.
  • Joint property is held as joint tenants. This is because upon the death of the first joint tenant that tenant’s share automatically passes to the surviving joint owner.
  • Where there are assets which do not form part of the deceased’s estate. Examples include certain pensions, death in service benefits and Trust assets.

If you are in any doubt as to whether a Grant is necessary, then we would be happy to advise you.

Estate Administration

Both Executors and Administrators are referred to as the Personal Representatives (‘PRs’) of the deceased. The PRs are responsible for winding up the estate. There are a number of stages to the process but in broad terms:

  • The length of time this takes will depend upon the complexity of the estate and the type of assets and liabilities involved, whether there is any inheritance tax due and how quickly all the information necessary to complete any relevant tax forms can be collated.
  • If there is no tax to pay, then form IHT 205 must be completed and sent to the Probate registry with the Oath sworn by the PRs. The Oath is a document in which the PRs confirm they will collect in all the deceased’s assets, pay any debts and distribute the estate either in accordance with the terms of the Will or as required by the intestacy rules.
  • If there is tax to pay, then the more detailed form IHT400 must be completed and sent to HMRC for confirmation of any tax due, as the tax must be paid before an application to the Probate Registry for the Grant can be made.
  • Once the Grant has been received the PRs then send it to all relevant asset holders so that any funds and/or assets can be released to them. They then pay any outstanding liabilities of the deceased and the remaining balance will be distributed to the beneficiaries under the terms of the Will or in accordance with the intestacy rules as appropriate.

 

When you should definitely choose professional probate assistance

  • Where there is a likelihood the Will itself might be challenged. This might be on the grounds of lack of mental capacity or validity, for example.
  • If there are any potential claims against the estate. Has the deceased excluded an estranged family member from his/her Will, for example, who might make a claim for reasonable provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependents Act) 1975?
  • If the estate is likely to be insolvent and there are insufficient assets to pay the debts and any legacies due.
  • If the deceased owned a farm or business and you require expert advice on tax relief.
  • In circumstances where a beneficiary refuses to vacate a property forming part of the deceased’s estate and which needs to be sold, or to hand over estate assets which have been bequeathed to somebody else.
  • Where Trust assets are involved. Was the deceased a beneficiary under a Trust, for example? If so as a beneficiary the deceased may be due some benefit from the Trust which remains to be distributed. If the deceased left a Will it may impact on how the Trust fund is to be distributed, and the value of the Trust may have to be taken into account in calculating the IHT due on death.
  • Where a foreign grant of probate is necessary if the deceased held assets abroad.
  • Where there is a possibility of varying the estate to mitigate inheritance tax.

 

How Universal Wealth Preservation can assist you

If you are a PR, you may choose to either deal with the probate and administration of the estate yourself or to seek professional assistance:

  • If the matter is relatively straightforward, you may feel comfortable dealing with it personally, but bear in mind that a PR is legally responsible for ensuring that the estate has been correctly administered and has a duty to act diligently and in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries.
  • Your duties will include the preparation of any necessary inheritance tax accounts. PRs are responsible for making proper disclosure to HMRC and are liable for the inheritance tax that is due on the estate. Even though any tax is an expense of the estate, as a PR you could be held personally liable if you fail to make a proper assessment of the assets for tax and to factor into your calculations tax which is due to HMRC.
  • You are obliged to complete the tax account within 12 months of the date of the death of the deceased but any interest will start to run 6 months from the end of the month of the death. So, if the death is on 1 January then you will need to have submitted your tax account by 31 July to avoid paying interest from 1 August, for example.

As part of our full range of probate services we are able to assist clients with completion of the inheritance tax forms enabling them to deliver an accurate account to HMRC within the relevant time scale, to advise them in relation to any omissions on the forms, and to provide a corrective account to HMRC where necessary.

In fact, whatever your circumstances and irrespective of whether there is a Will or the deceased is intestate, we can offer you peace of mind and shoulder the burden of dealing with probate and the administration of the estate on your behalf. 

Contact us for more information on our probate services and let our team of experts guide you through your available options.