28 April, 2020
When a loved-one dies, it can feel like an overwhelming task to begin to put their affairs in order and to deal with the long list of administrative tasks that need to be completed. There will of course be the initial tasks of registering the death and arranging the funeral, but what happens next?
If the deceased has left a Will, the person who is appointed as an executor will have a legal responsibility to deal with the estate in accordance with the terms of that Will. They will be also be accountable to the deceased's beneficiaries, as well as to any creditors of the deceased, to provide a full picture of the deceased's estate and to distribute it properly.
If the deceased has not left a Will (an intestacy), the process can be more complicated, and it will generally be for the deceased's closest relative to make an application to court to enable them to deal with the deceased's estate.
If the deceased owned a house, held investments, or had cash in the bank over the sum of £50,000, it is likely that a Grant of Probate will be required in order to be able to sell or retrieve these assets. A Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration in the case of an intestacy) is a document issued by the Probate Registry which names the personal representatives in the estate and proves that they are legally the right people to deal with selling or releasing the assets.
The process for applying for a Grant of Probate involves valuing the deceased's assets and liabilities, including any lifetime income tax that remains payable, completing an Inheritance Tax Return, and submitting the Probate application with the relevant statement of truth to the Probate Registry.
Once the Grant has been issued, the executor is then responsible for selling any assets owned by the deceased, paying outstanding liabilities and expenses, submitting income tax and capital gains tax returns where applicable, and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in the Will, or to the people entitled to the estate under the intestacy rules. They should also produce accounts to show what has happened to the funds in the estate.
Some people feel that the administrative burden of dealing with a deceased's estate is just too much at what is already a difficult time, and they want to hand the whole matter over to us as their solicitors for us to deal with. We have wide experience in dealing with estates ranging from the very simplest, to very high value, complex estates, and we are able to deal with every stage of the process for you.
Some people feel able to do some of the work themselves, but are unsure about the legal and financial side of things or feel more comfortable dealing with beneficiaries through a solicitor. We can assist you at any stage of the process, for as long as you require our help. This provides you with the confidence that you have satisfied all of your legal responsibilities, but allowing you the flexibility to deal with as much of the process as you feel able.
We can also advise you in relation to discrete aspects of estate administration, such as varying the terms of the deceased's Will, the administration of any ongoing trusts in the Will and the preparation of estate accounts; as well as assisting with the preparation of trust and estate tax returns and tax forms for beneficiaries.
All of the solicitors in the Wills and Probate team are working during this time and are able to take instructions in relation to all matters by telephone or video meetings. There is no reason to delay dealing with an estate.
The Probate Registries remain open and are processing applications. The Probate Registry has recently introduced an online platform for solicitors to use to make Probate applications in certain cases. We are making use of this where possible in the hope that this will be a more efficient means of progressing matters for you.
For more information contact Elizabeth Whitaker in our Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts department via email or phone on 01772 220198. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.