If you would like us to help you deal with all of the formalities, or simply advise you, call Robert Sayer or Breege Daly on 020 3633 4060.
Our office is in West London. You can visit us if you like but you don't have to. We regularly help clients who live all over the country using the post, the telephone and email. We will do everything that needs to be done with the minimum of fuss.
The Law Society of England and Wales
Solicitors for Elderly Clients
The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners
The Mencap Panel
Probate is the general term used for dealing with the affairs of someone who has died. It covers the whole range of situations, from dealing with a simple estate to a highly complicated one, whether there is a Will or not.
These are official certificates issued by the Probate Registry (a Government department) authorising a named person(s) to collect in or deal with the deceased’s property. It’s called a Grant of Probate when there is a Will and Letters of Administration when there is no Will, but they are basically the same thing.
If someone dies leaving any property, (for example a bank or building society account, an insurance policy, shares or a house), any institution holding that property or anybody buying it will want to know that they are dealing with the right person. A Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is the official document confirming who is the proper executor or next of kin. Once they have seen a copy the bank, building society, insurer etc can safely hand over the property. If the estate (the property left) is less than £5000 or so in total you can sometimes get the money released without a Grant or Letters. If the deceased owned a house, flat or any other land just in their name you will always need a Grant or Letters. If they owned a house, flat or other land jointly with someone else you may need a Grant or Letters...or you may not. As you can see, it can get a little complicated.
Usually any estate worth more than £325,000 faces a bill for Inheritance Tax. At a tax rate of 40% this can be quite substantial, particularly for anyone who owns a property in this part of the country.
Most Inheritance Tax planning needs to be done during one’s lifetime but sometimes there are steps that can be taken to reduce or even completely eliminate the tax liability even after someone has died.
If the net estate is over £325,000 Inheritance Tax may be payable. Surviving spouses and charities are exempt. That Tax is at the rate of 40% on every pound over £325,000. So, for example, an estate worth £600,000 would incur tax of £120,000. (£600,000 minus £325,000 = £325,000 x 40% = £110,000).
Usually Inheritance Tax has to be paid at the same time as you apply for the Grant. There are some exceptions and sometimes a bank will release enough money in advance to cover the Tax.
Different assets may need to be dealt with in different ways. A bank account may simply be closed and the money paid to the appropriate beneficiary. Shares may be sold or it might be better to keep them and just transfer the ownership to the beneficiary. Whether a house or flat goes to the person named in the Will can be affected by how it was owned. Some jointly owned properties go to the other co owner regardless of what the Will may say.
The final stage is making sure the money or property goes to the right people, but first make sure any debts are paid. If they are overlooked, the executor might become personally liable to pay them out of his or her own money. Because of this, it’s prudent to place an advertisement asking any claimants to contact the executor. Done properly this gives protection against unknown creditors.
How do I get a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?
If the estate is simple and uncomplicated you may wish to deal with it yourself. If you do not feel up to doing that or if the estate is anything but the most straightforward, don’t try. Leave it to us.
What needs to be done ? First, check if a Will has been left. If so, who is the Executor? That is the person(s) responsible for dealing with the estate. If you are not the executor, you should leave it to them unless they are not able or willing to take on the work. If that happens, talk to us before doing anything else. Acting as an unauthorised executor can be risky.
If there is no Will, the next of kin has responsibility for dealing with the estate. The next of kin is the closest surviving relative. The surviving spouse, child, parent, or brothers and sisters and so on in that order.
Next, confirm how much the property left is worth. This means listing all the property and then getting valuations from the bank, building society, insurer etc. You also have to find out if there are any outstanding debts or mortgages.
Armed with all the necessary information you can now complete the necessary forms and apply to the Probate Registry for the Grant itself.
What can we do to help?
The death of someone close can be devastating. The last thing most of us feel like doing is getting involved in sorting out their financial affairs... but it has to be done.
If you don’t feel up to dealing with all the formalities yourself let us do it for you. As solicitors we deal with this situation every day. We know what needs to be done and how to do it with the minimum of fuss. Let us sort out the legal and financial formalities for you while you look after your family and yourself.
Contact any bank, building society, insurance company or any other institution that needs to be informed.
Liaise with the Inland Revenue about any necessary tax returns, refunds or demands and with any relevant pension or benefits departments.
Deal with the transfer of ownership of any house, flat or other property.
Collect in any other assets and make sure they go to the right beneficiaries.
In short, do whatever is needed to make sure all the legal formalities, which arise at this time, are properly dealt with.
We deal with clients’ financial affairs every day.
As solicitors we are highly trained, experienced professionals.