What is probate?
The term “probate” (or “administration” if it relates to someone who died without a Will) describes the process for obtaining the right to manage the affairs of a deceased person.
Those responsible for the deceased person’s affairs (known as executor(s) or administrator(s)) will apply for a Grant of Probate (or letters of administration if the person died without a Will). These will give them the authority to be able to deal with the deceased person’s finances, assets and possessions (referred to as their “estate”) which will include paying their taxes and debts, gathering in any money and, where necessary disposing of their assets and, when this is all done, distributing estate in accordance with the Will (or the rules of intestacy where there is no Will).
Does there have to be a Grant of Probate?
Probate is not always necessary, especially in cases where the estate is small or there are very few different assets. We will always let you know if probate or administration is needed and, if not, advise you as to how you can proceed.
Although it is possible for an individual to obtain and deal with the probate themselves, it can be complicated and time-consuming, especially if there are a large number of beneficiaries (that is to say people receiving gifts) or if the value of the estate is large or complex. That is why having the matter dealt with by solicitors such as Janet Sinden & Co is the route many people will choose.
The circumstances in which you are likely to want to instruct us include:
- you lack the expertise to deal with it yourself;
- there are charities named as beneficiaries;
- the Will is being contested;
- there are concerns about the validity of the Will;
- there are taxation issues;
- there is no Will and the estate is complex or large;
- there are dependents not mentioned in the Will who may wish to make a claim against the estate;
- the beneficiaries which to vary the terms of any gifts;
- the Will is complex or features trusts are involved;
- overseas property or assets are involved;
- the estate is insolvent;
- the estate involves a business or agricultural assets.
As with much of legal work, the amount that we will need to do to deal with a grant of probate or the administration of an estate will depend upon the complexity of the estate and what is required. A simple estate, therefore, comprising only a house in the sole name of the deceased person, and a bank/building society account with the whole estate being left to a single child of the deceased person will require far less work than if there are multiple properties, several bank or building society accounts, shares, investments, insurance policies, business interests and a range of beneficiaries.
Please be assured that we will always advise you to the best of our ability at the outset as to the likely complexity of the matter and try at all times to ensure that it is handled as expeditiously as possible.
Instructing Janet Sinden & Co
Janet Sinden & Co can advise you on the issues that can arise when dealing with a probate or administration. This can include dealing with HM Revenue & Customs in connection with inheritance tax and advising on post death variations so as to maximise the value of the estate.
We are happy both to act as an executor or an administrator or to support and advise executors and administrators as they undertake what is required to wind up the estate themselves.
Our services include, but are not limited to:
- registering the death;
- arranging the funeral (if requested);
- applying for probate or letters administration;
- establishing and where necessary locating the beneficiaries;
- administering the assets of the estate, arranging for the sale of those assets where necessary and carrying out the distribution to beneficiaries;
- dealing with the deceased’s debts or liabilities;
- dealing with HMRC – including registering any trusts and filing the necessary returns;
What is Involved?
The individual tasks that we will undertake are likely to vary from transaction to transaction depending upon the terms of the Will, the size of the estate, the nature of the assets, the number of beneficiaries and the extent to which the executors are able to undertake matters themselves . However, the work to be carried out could include:
- taking instructions and either advising you on the terms of the deceased’s Will and the duties of the executors or, if there is no Will, advising you as to how the estate will be administered under the intestacy rules;
- getting a valuation of the estate (which could include houses, possessions, bank and building society accounts, insurance policies and shares) and working out whether there are any liabilities. This might involve:
- writing to utility providers such as gas, electricity and telephone providers;
- dealing with council tax;
- dealing with house insurance (and in particular making sure that it does not lapse following the death);
- writing to share registrars and others responsible for any investments; and
- gathering together details of any bank accounts;
- obtaining a value for any house owned by the deceased;
- dealing with any business or farming assets and ascertaining whether a business needs to be kept running, and then making the necessary arrangements, pending a sale.
- once the estate has been valued, preparing the Inheritance Tax form and Oath for Executors (application for the Grant) and working out the Inheritance Tax (if any) that the estate will need to pay;
- sending the Inheritance Tax forms to HMRC and arranging for the first payment of Inheritance Tax from the assets of the estate;
- submitting the application for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration;
- sending the grant, and any relevant letters of authority, to the various banks, insurers, financial institutions, and managers of investment in order to collect in the assets and discharge any liabilities;
- carrying out such steps as required in relation to Inheritance Tax and obtaining a clearance certificate from HMRC;
- arranging to sell or transfer any property such as houses, possessions etc. If these have been left to specific individuals these will be transferred to those individuals – otherwise they will be sold for the benefit of the estate;
- arranging any necessary statutory notices for creditors in the London Gazette/local press;
- identifying and then corresponding with beneficiaries regarding the distribution of the estate and paying any interim legacies or any pecuniary legacies that are due under the will or intestacy;
- preparing Estate Accounts for executors/administrators;
- carrying out bankruptcy checks for beneficiaries;
- paying out the final balances as appropriate.
At Janet Sinden & Co we don’t believe in hiding our prices. We believe firmly in allowing clients to judge value for money and as such we make sure that we are transparent regarding our fees at all times. You can be sure that, when instructing us, there will be no hidden surprises.
For more information about our fees and anticipated disbursements please go to the Probate and Administration Charges. Also, we will always make totally clear how our charges and disbursements in our cost quotation that we will supply to you at the outset of the matter.
Our charges are transparent. We do not charge any “added value” element, so you only pay for the work that you need our expert assistance with. For example, where the family or executors are able to deal with much of the work themselves, we can support them with our Grant Only Service. This is a fixed fee service to obtain the Grant of Probate or administration based on the information and evidence that they supply.
How Long will It take?
We realise how frustrating it can be when, as a beneficiary, you are waiting for an estate to be finalised. For that reason, we will never take longer than we have to in dealing with your matter. Please bear in mind, however, that in many cases the time taken will be as a result of factors outside of your or our control.
For a simple probate matter, estates are usually dealt with within 3-8 months. The basic steps which we will take in an average probate matter and their relative timescales are as follows: –
|Typical timescale from instruction
|Identifying and valuing the estate
|Arranging payment of inheritance tax (in taxable estates)
|Applying for the grant
|Notification of grant and realisation of assets
|Payment of liabilities and legacies
|Distribution of Estate
Be assured that we will always keep you up to date with that which is happening and will let you know if there are any factors likely to slow thigs down. These may include:
- Problems as to the validity of the will and the claims of competing wills;
- Cooperation from family, executors and beneficiaries;
- Where enquiries need to be made to identify beneficiaries;
- Obtaining the death certificate and/or arranging the funeral.
- Issues affecting the property of the deceased including for example house clearance, insurance claims, making the property safe or problems with overseas properties;
- Complicated estates which have multiple accounts or properties and complex financial planning;
- Foreign assets – especially those where we need to obtain grants in other countries to deal with property;
- Business the deceased was involved in at the date of death or farming assets;
- Complex trusts;
- Locating missing beneficiaries and obtaining missing beneficiary insurance where appropriate;
- Dealing with tax;
- Dealing with property sales and
- Preparing any deeds of variation of the terms of a will.
Often simply the length of time that others take to respond can be a significant factor and usually we will have little or no ability to change this.
Please bear in mind that we cannot finalise an estate until all of the claims on the estate have been received. Those wanting to make a claim on the estate have six months from the date probate is granted to make a claim against the estate, which is why we suggest that the process is could take at least eight months, if not longer.
If the deceased person died without having made a will and we therefore have to deal with the estate under what are known as “the intestacy rules”, then it is likely that process will take even longer as we will need to establish who the beneficiaries are before we can finalise matters.
Who Will carry out the Work?
Your probate or administration will be carried out by our specialist Solicitor Lucy Rastgoye and members of her team. Lucy has many years of experience in delivering high quality work in all matters relating to probate and administration.
Regardless of who works on your matter, they will be supervised by Christopher Bean. Full details of all of our staff will be found in the Meet the Team section of this website.