Probate

When someone dies there are many questions to be answered and arrangements that will have to be made. This can be very difficult in a time of grief. The deceased may or may not have made a Will. There will be decisions to be made about the deceased’s funeral and about property and savings. The list can seem endless.

We can assist you in answering questions and making the process after bereavement easier and simpler for those left behind.

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Personal Representatives
These are the people who are legally responsible for dealing with the deceased person's "estate", or all the belongings, money, property, debts and liabilities the person leaves behind. Personal Representatives often need a formal, legal document known as a Grant of Representation before they can deal with, or “administer”, an estate. The term ‘Grant of Representation’ is used to refer either to a Grant of Probate when issued to the executors of a Will, or a Grant of Letters of Administration when issued to an administrator (where there is no Will). It may be necessary to pay Inheritance Tax. There will be many other steps to be taken in order to complete the winding up process.

Information required about the estate
If you do decide to seek legal advice following the death of a loved one, you will need to think about the following:

  • the value at the date of death of all assets – these include houses, other property, household goods, bank accounts, shares, cars, jewellery, personal belongings etc...
  • details of any money owed to the deceased
  • any debts owed by the deceased, including any tax due to HM Revenue & Customs

This information is needed to calculate whether any inheritance tax is payable and this is a very important calculation. Many estates are not large enough to be liable for inheritance tax and recent changes in the law have further increased the number of estates which fall below the nil-rate band for inheritance tax purposes. We can assist you in establishing the tax position of an estate.

Inheritance tax
Inheritance tax is payable on estates whose value exceeds a certain amount (or “threshold”). The threshold changes from year to year. Anything left to a wife, husband or civil partner can usually be taken off the value of an estate for the purpose of calculating the inheritance tax due, provided certain conditions are met.

Even where the threshold may appear to have been exceeded, thanks to recent changes in the law, there may still be some flexibility as portions of a nil-rate band allowance can be transferred between spouses or civil partners on the death of the second of the couple. There are complicated rules surrounding this and we are able to provide you with appropriate advice in this area.

Did you know:

  • It may interest you to know that legal fees for a solicitor’s advice with regard to an estate can be paid out of the estate.
  • Where the amount of money held in savings and investments is less than £5,000.00 at any single financial institution, a Grant of Representation may not be necessary and it is always worth checking with the institution in question first. However, no financial institution is obliged to release money without sight of a Grant of Representation despite the size of the amount of money they hold.
  • A Deed of Variation may be used to change the terms of a Will (or the intestacy rules) within two years of the date of death in order to reduce an inheritance tax liability. All beneficiaries must agree to any changes but it is very important that you take legal advice to ensure that the deed has the effect you want.

It is advisable to consider using a solicitor where:

  • the estate is large or high value;
  • a business or agricultural property is involved;
  • the deceased was a partner in a firm;
  • there are family trusts or large gifts to children under 18 years of age;
  • you find the Will was badly drafted;
  • there is a likelihood that someone may believe that they have been unfairly treated by the Will or the rules of intestacy e.g. a child of the deceased has been disinherited.