Personal

Probate

Our expert probate lawyers can help you deal with the legal process of managing a person's estate after they have passed away.

We are still available and booking appointments over telephone and video conference

Probate is the term used to deal with the legal process of dealing with a person's estate after their death. Our specialist team of Probate and Trusts Solicitors have many years experience in taking the burden off family members and dealing with the necessary legal procedures involved in administering a person's estate in the UK.

If the deceased left a Will, there will be Executors who are responsible for dealing with the estate. If there is no Will, the people responsible for dealing with the estate are called Administrators. Executors and Administrators are often referred to as Personal Representatives. They have the task of collecting in the deceased's assets, i.e. closing down bank accounts, selling or transferring shares, selling or transferring property and dealing with any legacies of money or personal items. They are also required to settle any debts of the estate, including funeral expenses and administration expenses, out of the deceased's funds. Personal Representatives are also responsible for sorting out any tax issues, including Inheritance Tax, Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

Obtaining the Grant of Representation

In order to deal with assets in the estate, Personal Representatives will often need to apply for a Grant of Representation. This is a legal document issued by the High Court which authorises the Personal Representatives to collect in the assets. If there is a Will, the Grant is called a Grant of Probate. If there is no Will, the Grant is called a Grant of Letters of Administration. Most financial institutions will require sight of the Grant before they will release the monies, although this may not be the case if there are small amounts of money involved. If the deceased owned a property or shares, a Grant will certainly be required. Our Probate and Trusts Solicitors can help you with this process by taking care of all the paperwork involved.

Complete Administration

If you would like Forbes Solicitors to deal with the whole administration of the estate for you, we can assist with all these matters including:

  • Notifying third parties of the death, i.e. financial institutions, share registrars, utility companies
  • Obtaining valuations of assets
  • Dealing with any Inheritance Tax, Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax matters
  • Obtaining the Grant of Representation
  • Collecting in the assets
  • Settling liabilities, tax liabilities, funeral expenses and administration expenses
  • Selling the deceased's property or transferring property to beneficiaries
  • Selling shares or transferring shares to beneficiaries
  • Paying any legacies left by the deceased to beneficiaries
  • Placing statutory notices in newspapers to advertise for any unknown creditors
  • Preparing estate accounts to account for monies going in and out of the estate from the date of death
  • Distributing the monies in the estate as per the Will or Intestacy Rules (if there is no Will)
  • Advising on trust arrangements within the Will
  • Post-death variations - advising on variations of the Will after death to maximise tax mitigation or vary entitlements under the Intestacy Rules

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Probate FAQs

What is Probate?
 
 

A grant of probate, or grant of representation, proves the authority of the executors or personal representatives to deal with a deceased person's estate.

If the deceased left a Will appointing executors, those people will need to apply for what is known as a "grant of probate".

If there is no Will, generally the next of kin will apply for what is known as a "grant of letters of administration".

The process of applying for the grant and administering the estate is often generically referred to as "probate".

Do you have to apply for a grant of probate in all estates?
 
 

Not always. If a deceased only owned property jointly with someone else, such as their spouse or civil partner, then generally this will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner without requiring probate.

If the deceased didn't own a house and only had sole bank accounts holding less than around £50,000 then probate may not be needed, depending on the requirements of the banks.

If the deceased owned a house in his or her sole name a grant of probate will always be required to enable the executors to sell it or transfer it into the names of the beneficiaries.

Probate will also usually be required where monies in the bank exceed £50,000 or where the deceased held any investments. Again this will depend on the requirements of the financial institutions.

What are the duties of an executor?
 
 

An executor is responsible for ensuring that the deceased's estate is properly dealt with and their wishes in their Will are carried out. The responsibilities can be extensive and carry personal liability so it is important, where appropriate, to seek professional advice.

As well as ensuring that the death is registered and the funeral has been arranged and paid for, an executor will be responsible for obtaining valuations of all of the assets and liabilities in the estate. They must then ensure that any Inheritance Tax due is calculated using the correct forms and paid to HM Revenue & Customs, an then submit the probate application to the Probate Registry.

When the Grant has been issued, an executor is then responsible for collecting in the estate assets, selling any property or investments where necessary, and settling all outstanding estate liabilities from these funds. They will need to consider the income tax and capital gains tax position of the estate and account for these where necessary.

Following this, the executors are responsible for the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries. It is important that executors keep full records and prepare a final set of accounts for the estate which should be shown to the beneficiaries for their approval.

If I have been appointed as an executor in someone’s Will, do I have to act?
 
 

No, there is no legal obligation to act. There are two options available to you in these circumstances:

  • As long as you haven't intermeddled in, or started dealing with the estate, you can renounce your right to obtain the grant of probate. This must be done by deed and will remove you entirely from the whole process.
  • A less extreme measure, where perhaps you don't want to be totally excluded but you don't really want to deal with all of the formalities of dealing with the estate, and where you are appointed alongside people who are willing to act, is to opt to have "power reserved". This means that the remaining executors obtain the grant of probate and deal with the administration of the estate, but you can step in at a later stage and apply for a grant of probate if required. You can also then be kept in the loop in relation to the administration of the estate if you wish.
I am appointed executor in an estate in the UK but I live abroad. Can I still act?
 
 

You can still act but you may find it easier to appoint a solicitor to assist you who is more local to the deceased's residence. The majority of our communication with you can be done electronically, although there will be some documents that you would need to physically sign and send in the post.

It is also possible, and it may be easier, to appoint a solicitor as your attorney specifically to act as executor of the estate in your place. This means that the solicitor will be able to sign any necessary documentation and deal with things that require a physical presence in the UK. To speak to a member of our Probate team, Complete our online enquiry form today.

If I have a relative who has recently passed away, what should I do first in dealing with their estate?
 
 

The prospect of dealing with an estate can feel like a daunting task, so it is important to take it one step at a time. Aside from dealing with the funeral, the first and most important thing to do is register the death. You will need to contact the registry office, preferably the one that is most local to the deceased's residence, to make an appointment to register the death. They will provide you with the death certificate. It is worth obtaining a few copies of the certificate as it may need to be sent off to banks and other institutions to notify them of the death.

You will then need to look through the deceased's paperwork to ascertain what assets and liabilities there may be in the estate. You may wish at this stage to instruct a solicitor to assist you in dealing with the estate going forward, and we would ask you to bring in any paperwork that you have found. For advise, complete our online enquiry form.

When banks are notified of a death they will freeze the deceased’s accounts. How will I pay for the funeral?
 
 

By law funeral expenses take priority over any other expense in an estate and so, even though the banks may have frozen the accounts, they will still release funds directly to the funeral directors if they are provided with a copy of the funeral invoice.

What is the process for applying for a grant of probate?
 
 

In order to apply for a grant of probate we need to firstly obtain valuations of all of the assets owned by the deceased, including, for example, bank balances, investment valuations and property valuations, and also any liabilities in the estate such as funeral costs, outstanding loans and outstanding bills. We would then prepare the Inheritance Tax return using these figures, calculate any Inheritance Tax due, and arrange for it to be paid. We would then complete the application paperwork and submit it to the probate registry.

There are two different Inheritance Tax returns, a short form return for simpler, lower value estates, and a long form return for more complex or higher value estates. There are also two separate Inheritance Tax forms which have to be completed where you need to claim additional reliefs from Inheritance Tax such as the transferable nil rate band from a deceased spouse's estate and the residential nil rate band. A solicitor would be able to assist with the completion of these forms if required. For assistance, get in touch today on 01772 220 022 or complete our online enquiry form.

Do I need to appoint a solicitor to deal with administering an estate?
 
 

It depends on a number of things. Where an estate is very simple, some people feel able to deal with it entirely themselves. Some people, however, find the prospect of dealing with an estate quite stressful and emotional and would prefer, for their own peace of mind, to hand the whole process over to a solicitor to deal with. It is not uncommon for executors to come and see us, bringing a box of paperwork belonging to the deceased, and handing it all over to us to deal with from start to finish. We have a lot of experience in dealing with large and small estates and often people find it easier to leave it to us.

Some people feel that they would like to deal with some aspects of the administration themselves, but feel more comfortable asking a solicitor to deal with the legal documentation and tax returns. We are able to be completely flexible and tailor what we do around the needs of the individual client. For assistance or advise, complete our online enquiry form today.

What is the cost to appoint a solicitor?
 
 

The cost of using a solicitor will vary depending on the complexity of the estate and how much you would want to do yourselves. The legal costs are paid from the funds in the estate, not by the executors personally.

If we were dealing with the whole administration of an estate from start to finish, the cost will depend largely on the estimated time it would take for the solicitor to deal with it. We would provide you with a quote at the outset, having had an initial meeting with you.

If you want to instruct us for specific aspects of the process, such as just completing the grant application paperwork, we are able to do this for a lower fixed fee, depending on which aspects we are dealing with on your behalf.

Where there are a number of executors appointed in an estate or where executors live at a distance from each other, or from where the deceased lived, it can often be helpful and more cost effective to appoint a solicitor. The solicitor can coordinate everything centrally, liaise with everyone involved, and deal with the assets more efficiently.

Visit our fees for probate services page for more information.

How long does it take to get a grant of probate?
 
 

Once the application has been sent off to the Probate Registry, it can take around 3-4 weeks for the grant to be issued where the estate is relatively simple and no Inheritance Tax is payable. Where the estate is taxable or is more complex, the timescale depends on the workload of HMRC and the Probate Registry. It can take a few months for the grant to be issued for these estates.

After the grant of probate has been obtained and I am collecting in the estate funds, do I need to use a separate bank account for this?
 
 

If you are dealing with the onward administration of the estate yourself, without using a solicitor, you will need a separate bank account to receive estate funds and to make payments out to cover liabilities and estate expenses. This account will need to be opened in the name of all executors named on the grant of probate. As executor you are required to account for estate funds and provide beneficiaries with a breakdown of the movement of funds into and out of the estate if they ask for it.

If you appoint a solicitor to deal with the onward administration of the estate after obtaining the grant of probate, we are able to receive estate funds into our client account designated for the estate and we can deal with paying out liabilities and expenses directly from there on your behalf. We will also distribute the estate funds for you to the beneficiaries. At the end of the administration period we would account for any income tax due for the administration period and draft comprehensive estate account which show exactly what has happened to the estate funds during the administration period.

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Our dedicated Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts team

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Call0800 975 2463

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Contacting Us

Monday to Friday: 09:00 to 17:00
Saturday and Sunday: Closed