Unless the estate is very small with no freehold or leasehold property (a house or flat) then it will usually be necessary to obtain Probate – a Grant of Probate is a formal document issued by the Probate Registry which validates the Will and authorises the Executors to deal with the estate. We will be able to tell you straightaway whether or not a Grant is needed.
If the deceased left a Will, the application to the Probate Registry will be for a Grant of Probate. However, if the deceased did not make a Will and therefore died ‘intestate’, a Grant of Letters of Administration will be required. The application for this kind of Grant is usually made by next of kin (e.g. the surviving spouse or the children of the deceased). Where there is an intestacy, we will be able to advise you which members of the family are entitled to take out the Grant of Letters of Administration.
As part of the application for Probate, we will need to declare the value of the estate in a formal account which is submitted to HM Revenue & Customs – so, once you have provided us with the papers of the deceased, we will write to the financial institutions concerned (banks, building societies, insurance companies etc) to obtain up-to-date account balances and valuations. It is difficult to estimate how long this process will take, as we will be dependent upon the turnaround time of third parties, but normally most of the financial information will be received within 4 – 6 weeks of your passing the papers through to us. The next step will be for you to attend at our offices for the purpose of swearing the Oath which will lead to the Grant. That oath is then lodged at the Probate Registry. The Grant is usually issued within 2 – 3 weeks. Arrangements will have to be made to pay any tax due at the same time that the probate application is submitted – usually banks/building societies will release funds for the purpose of covering any tax liability.
Once the Grant has been obtained we will collect in the deceased’s assets in accordance with your instructions. This typically involves closing bank accounts, cashing in investment products and selling shares. We will attend to the conveyancing in respect of the deceased’s home or, alternatively, transfer the home into the names of beneficiaries. All the estate monies will be kept in our client account in the names of the Personal Representatives and will be subject to the protection of the stringent rules imposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. If any estate monies come into your hands you should send the same through to us straight away so that such monies can be properly accounted for and then fairly allocated between the beneficiaries.
Once we have collected in all the assets we will prepare Estate Accounts for approval by the Personal Representatives and beneficiaries. The Estate Accounts will contain a detailed summary of all assets, liabilities, expenses and income and show exactly what each beneficiary will receive from the estate.
As soon as the accounts are approved we will distribute the estate. This will normally involve paying over to the beneficiaries their entitlements or transferring assets out of the estate into the names of the beneficiaries. If the Will creates trusts, e.g. for underage beneficiaries, we will arrange for those trusts to be set up.
The length of time taken to obtain a Grant and administer an estate can vary significantly and depends on the value and complexity of the estate, the number of beneficiaries, the provisions of the Will, whether or not any assets are located outside of England and Wales and whether or not there is an inheritance tax liability.
The simplest estates can be dealt with within 3 – 4 months of first instructing us. More complex estates can take significantly longer.
Delays in the administration can occur where a dispute arises between beneficiaries – a family member may for instance believe that the Will has failed to make adequate provision for him or her: in this kind of case it will not be possible to distribute the estate until the claim of the disappointed person has been dealt with.
Distribution can also be delayed if the Department of Work and Pensions brings a claim in respect of an overpayment of benefits (such as Pension Credit or Income Support) made to the deceased during his or her lifetime. Sometimes it can take several months to resolve such a claim.
We will keep you informed of any problems that arise during the course of the administration which are likely to cause significant delay and will do our best to resolve the same as quickly as possible.
How can we help you?
Bramhall Solicitors can help you by providing you with a high quality legal service.
Our starting point is that our clients need looking after. Legal matters can be stressful – so, whether you are moving house, dealing with bereavement, trying to work out what you should do in your Will or facing family issues, we will make it our priority to provide you with all the legal support and advice you need.