Tel: 01992 422 128
23 London Road, Hertford, Herts SG13 7LG
Probate & Estate Administration
Losing somebody you love is never easy. The added pressure of having to deal with their estate can be a daunting thing, particularly in a time of grief and more so if you are not familiar with the practical and legal steps which need to be taken after somebody has died.
“We have had a good and pleasant service and queries were always answered and phone calls returned. A polite, pleasant, helpful and efficient service given on a variety of matters. We felt comfortable to ask anything if unsure and were always given a response.” Mrs C, Hertford
What is probate?
If you are appointed as the executor of somebody's will, you will have the responsibility of dealing with their estate when they die. This typically involves collecting the assets and all monies due to the estate, paying funeral expenses and other liabilities such as inheritance tax, distributing any legacies, completing the estate administration and distributing the rest of the estate (known as the 'residuary estate') to the beneficiaries of the will.
Usually, the executors will require a document known as a 'grant of probate' before being able to deal with the assets of an estate. A grant of probate is a court order issued by the probate registry once the relevant inheritance tax account has been filed, any inheritance tax has been paid to HMRC and an oath has been sworn by the executors. This process of proving the will is called probate, although the term 'probate' is often used in a general sense to describe the process of administering a deceased person's estate.
If the deceased did not leave a will (known as dying intestate) or if the deceased did make a will but did not name any executors or the executors named are unable or unwilling to act (for example if they are also deceased or have lost mental capacity), dealing with the estate is less straightforward but the procedure is more or less the same. A 'grant of letters of administration', or in the latter case a 'grant of letters of administration with will annexed', will generally be required to deal with the deceased's assets. The people named in the grant, who will have the responsibility of administering the estate, are called administrators. The estate will need to be distributed by the administrators in accordance with the will if there is one, otherwise the intestacy rules will need to be followed.
The terminology can seem quite confusing. In short, a 'personal representative' is the same as an executor or administrator and a 'grant of representation' is an all-inclusive term for grant of probate, grant of letters of administration and grant of letters of administration with will annexed.
When someone dies without leaving a valid will, their estate must be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. This is known as a total intestacy.
If the person left a valid will but the will fails to dispose of the whole estate, the part of the estate that has not been dealt with by the will must be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. This situation is known as a partial intestacy.
The following flowchart explains who is entitled to benefit from an intestate estate.
Although a grant of representation is usually required in order to deal with a deceased person’s assets, this is not always the case, particularly if the value of the estate is small in value. In these cases, it may be possible for the estate to be dealt with under the ‘small estates’ procedure.
There is a law which states that assets held by certain bodies, such as National Savings & Investments, can be released without a grant of representation where the amount in question does not exceed £5,000. This would apply if the deceased person had a small sum of premium bonds for example.
However, no organisation is obliged to release funds without a grant of representation and they may still insist on a grant being obtained. This is likely to be the case if there are complicating factors, such as numerous beneficiaries.
Banks and building societies often have their own thresholds and will agree to pay out small amounts if the estate is straightforward. The person dealing with the estate will usually have to sign a ‘small estates declaration and indemnity form’, confirming that they will distribute the funds correctly and indemnify the bank against any future claims.
Our experience in probate and estate administration enables us to provide an all-round service tailored to your specific needs. Whether you choose to deal with certain aspects yourself or instruct us to take care of everything for you, we offer a range of packages to choose from:
Consultation only (£80 + VAT)
We offer an initial fixed-fee meeting to go through and discuss all of the steps that need to be taken after somebody has died. If the deceased left a will, we will explain the terms to you clearly so you know exactly what to do if you have been appointed as an executor. If there is no will, we will explain the intestacy rules to you so that you understand the position. If the deceased's will was prepared by Garden House Solicitors, we offer this consultation to the executors of the estate free of charge.
Grant only (£750 / £1250 + VAT plus disbursements)
For a fixed fee, we will assist you with the initial stages up to and including obtaining the grant of representation. This will include settling any inheritance liability. The level of the fixed fee will depend on whether or not a full inheritance tax account is required, which will depend on various factors such as the value of the estate. Once the grant of representation has been obtained, you as personal representatives can then complete the administration of the estate on your own by collecting in the assets, settling any debts and distributing the monies to the beneficiaries.
Full administration service (hourly rate)
At the other end of the spectrum, we offer a complete service whereby we assist with all aspects of dealing with the administration of the estate. This includes everything from registering the death with the relevant financial organisations, completing the inheritance tax account, settling any tax due and obtaining the grant of representation, through to settling all liabilities, distributing funds to the beneficiaries, completing the administration of the estate and preparing detailed estate accounts. As the level of work involved will depend on numerous factors, such as the complexity of the estate and the extent to which you (as personal representatives) may wish to be involved in certain tasks, our fees are based on the relevant hourly rate. We do not charge a fixed percentage of the value of the estate, as this would often result in you paying a higher fee that does not truly reflect the work undertaken. An estimate of the overall fees will always be provided at the outset.
Whatever option you choose, we will guide you through the process ensure that the deceased person's wishes are carried out with the utmost care.
Feel free to contact the Private Client team on 01992 422128 to arrange an appointment to discuss the next steps.
Probate & Estate Administration
- What is probate?
- Intestate estates
- Small estates
- Our services
Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning
Powers of Attorney & Court of Protection
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Garden House Solicitors is the trading name of Garden House Solicitors Limited a Company registered in England No. 7546805 - VAT No. 880 3524 25
Registered Office 23 London Road, Hertford, Herts SG13 7LG
Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority www.sra.org.uk (SRA Number 558153) Director: Patricia E Ling LL.B. (Hons)
We do not accept service by email.