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Three Standard Fixed Price Packages
Three Standard Fixed Price Packages

All About Probate

Advantages of Using Us

  • Our professional regulated service gives you the peace of mind that the Grant will be obtained simply and accurately
  • Convenience and reassurance that a professional has obtained the Grant
  • A fixed fee quoted at the outset so that you know where you stand in relation to our costs
  • No percentages of the Estate or hourly rate is charged
  • Completion of the Inheritance Tax return
  • Quick and efficient once you have provided us with the information

What does all this Probate Terminology Mean?

Beneficiary

A person who benefits from a Will or Codicil or under the terms of an intestacy.

Chattels

items of movable personal property such as furniture, cars, ornaments, jewellery and animals. It does not include cash, land, stocks and shares or investments.

Codicil

a document that amends an existing Will

Executor

a male person who is appointed in a Will to be responsible for the administration of an Estate.

Executrix

a female person who is appointed in a Will to be responsible for the administration of an Estate. More than one are sometimes referred to as Executrices.

Grant of Letters of Administration

the Grant of Representation issued by the Probate Registry where there is no Will and the Deceased has died intestate.

Grant of Probate

the Grant of Representation issued by the Probate Registry where there is a Will.

Grant of Representation

a collective terms for a document issued by the Probate Registry giving the Court’s authority to the person or persons entitled to administer the Deceased’s Estate. Asset holders generally require this document as proof that the Personal Representatives are the people authorized to deal with the administration of the Estate.

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax is usually paid on an Estate when someone dies. It is also sometimes payable on Trusts or gifts made during someone’s lifetime. It is not always payable.

Intestacy Rules

these are the statutory rules which govern what is to happen to a Deceased’s Estate where the Deceased has died intestate i.e. without leaving a Will and who is responsible for dealing with the administration of the Estate.

Intestate

a person who passes away without leaving a valid Will.

Legatee

a person who benefits from a cash legacy.

Pecuniary Legacy

a gift of a specific cash sum made in a Will or Codicil.

Personal Representative

a collective term for the person who is responsible for dealing with the administration of an Estate. If there is a Will then this person is more commonly known as an Executor or Executrix and if there is an intestacy then this person is more commonly known as an Administrator or Administratrix.

Probate Registry

the Probate Registry forms part of the Family Division of the High Court. It deals with “non-contentious” Probate business (where there is no dispute about the validity of a Will or entitlement to take out a Grant) and issues Grants of Representation.

Residuary Estate

the balance of the Deceased’s Estate available for distribution after all debts, liabilities, tax, administrative costs, legacies and specific gifts have been settled. It is effectively the net Estate.

Specific Gift

a gift of a specific item of property made in a Will or Codicil.

Testator

a man who makes a Will

Testatrix

a woman who makes a Will

Will

a legal document in which you set out what you want to happen to your assets after you die. You can also set out for example your wishes for who is to be responsible for the physical and emotional wellbeing of your children.

Are there any Timescales to Worry About?

In a word, yes.

The most important timescale relates to the payment of Inheritance Tax.

If Inheritance Tax is payable it is vitally important to provide accurate information about the value of the Estate as at the date the Deceased passed away. Furthermore the Inheritance Tax must be settled within six months after the month of death otherwise the Personal Representatives may be liable for penalties and interest.

A second important timescale relates to the distribution of the Estate once a Grant of Representation has been obtained. Whilst in England and Wales we have testamentary freedom to leave our Estate to whomever we choose by making a Will, this is only true to an extent. This is because there is an Act of Parliament known as the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 that gives certain categories of people the legal right to make a claim against the Estate of a deceased person if the Deceased failed to make reasonable financial provision for them in their Will or they are not one of the categories of people who are entitled to benefit under the Rules of Intestacy if there is no Will.

An Applicant under the 1975 Act has six months from the date of the Grant of Representation in which to make their claim and a further four months to effect service of their claim. If a Personal Representative makes distributions to beneficiaries during this ten month period and a claim is subsequently made under the Act, then the Personal Representative will incur personal liability and could find that they are seriously out of pocket particularly if the beneficiaries are unsympathetic or have spent their inheritance and refuse to reimburse the Personal Representative unless of course the Personal Representative happens to be the sole Personal Representative and sole beneficiary.

IF A CLAIM OF ANY KIND IS MADE AGAINST THE ESTATE THEN OUR CONTENTIOUS PROBATE TEAM CAN HELP YOU. PLEASE CALL 0800 052 3620

It may be that you do not know enough about the Deceased's personal and financial affairs so that you can feel confident about their debts and liabilities. In this situation we would recommend that you undertake statutory advertising. An advertisement is placed in the London Gazette and in the Public Notices section of the newspaper/s for the locality in which the Deceased resided inviting any claimants or creditors to come forward and make a claim against the Estate within two months of the date of the advertisement. Personal Representatives will not be personally liable to those creditors if they then make distributions after the two month time period has expired providing they have not had notification of the claim. If you wish to undertake statutory advertising we can arrange this for you at an additional fee.

What About Joint Property?

If someone dies and they owned property jointly with another person then in most cases that property whether it is land or a bank account will pass automatically to the surviving co-owner of the property irrespective of what is stated in the Deceased’s Will or irrespective of the Law of Intestacy. Generally speaking a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration is not necessary for ownership to be transferred to the surviving co-owner of the property as the property vests in them by survivorship. All that is required is production of the Deceased’s Death Certificate to the asset holder.

However, this is not always the case and it does depend upon whether or not the item was co-owned by the joint owners as joint tenants or tenants in common.

So What's the Difference?

If people co-own property together as “joint tenants” then they will all own the whole of the property together rather than each having a specified share in the property. If one co-owner dies, then the surviving co-owner automatically becomes the legal owner of the property even if the Deceased has made a specific provision for the property in their Will.

As “tenants in common”, the co-owners will co-own the property in specified shares (which may be 50/50) but if one co-owner dies then their specified share will pass according to the terms of their Will if they have one or under the Law of Intestacy if they do not. In this instance, it is generally necessary for the asset holder to see a Grant of Probate if there is a Will or a Grant of Letters of Administration if not in order to transfer the asset.

About the Deceased's Financial Affairs

It is necessary to assess the value of the Deceased’s Estate as at the date that they passed away. So the first stage of any administration of an Estate is a fact finding exercise. In particular you need to know the value of every single asset which the Deceased held in their sole name or jointly with someone else and every single debt or liability which the Deceased had.

As the Personal Representative for the Deceased, you will need to make the fullest possible enquiries about the Deceased’s financial affairs. This will involve contacting every institution that the Deceased had financial dealings with. If they are an asset holder you will need to request from them a value of the asset as at the date of death. If they are a creditor, then you will need to request from them the extent of the Deceased’s indebtedness at the date of death. It is only when you have obtained this information that you will be able to determine whether the Deceased’s Estate has an Inheritance Tax liability and apply for a Grant of Representation.

The Stages of Probate in a Nutshell

Stage 1

Stage 1 of the administration of any Estate is a fact finding stage. This stage involves ascertaining all of the assets and liabilities that the deceased had as well as their income streams and finding out what the gross and net values of the deceased’s Estate are.

Stage 2

This stage involves dealing with the Inheritance Tax liability of the deceased if there is one.

Even if there is no Inheritance Tax liability an Inheritance Tax Account must be prepared. In order to ascertain the Inheritance Tax position of the deceased, it is necessary to know the gross and net values of their Estate. If Inheritance Tax is payable then the Inheritance Tax liability must be settled at this stage (although sometimes part of the Tax may be paid by way of installments). This stage also involves making the application for the Grant of Representation to the Probate Registry.

Stage 3

Once the Probate Registry have issued the Grant of Representation, this stage involves calling in or liquidizing the deceased’s assets, settling the deceased’s debts and liabilities and dealing with any other outstanding Tax issues whether it is Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax. Once debts and liabilities have been settled consideration can be given to settling any legacies and specific gifts.

Stage 4

This stage entails finalizing the Income Tax liability during the administration. Once Income Tax has been finalised then Estate Accounts can be prepared for the consideration of the Personal Representatives. The Estate Accounts will identify every single penny that has come in during the administration and every single penny that has gone out and what is due to the residuary beneficiaries. Once the Personal Representatives have approved the Estate Accounts they can be sent to the residuary beneficiaries for their approval.

The Final Stage

Distributing the residuary Estate to the residuary beneficiaries.

*Prices exclusive of VAT and Disbursements

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