When someone writes their Will they name an executor (or executors) who will have the responsibility of ensuring their final wishes are carried out.
If you are named as that executor you will have responsibility for settling the deceased estate and this can be complicated. It will involve investigating what assets and liabilities they have and contacting the beneficiaries in the will.
To be able to gain access to a loved one’s assets a grant of probate will often be required, this is where a statement of truth together with an outline of the deceased’s estate, death certificate and Will is sent to the probate registry.
Once a grant of probate has been granted then the executor of the estate will have the legal authority to deal with the estate. You will gather in all of the assets, pay all of the liabilities, pay any tax owed to HMRC and then distribute what is left to the beneficiaries of the will.
Our team of specialist probate lawyers can help you with this whole process, including the application to the court and the calculation of Inheritance Tax for you.
What is the Probate process?
The Probate process usually involves a range of complex legal, tax and financial work which can be broken down into different phases, all of which we can help you with.
- Identifying all of the deceased’s assets.
- Paying Inheritance Tax to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if required.
- Following the Grant of Representation.
- Preparing and sending out estate accounts.
- Transferring assets that the beneficiaries wish to retain, and distributing the balance of the Estate funds.
What happens if Probate isn’t obtained?
In order for a person’s last wishes to be fulfilled, the Executor must be able to have full access to all the information needed.
If Probate is needed but isn’t obtained then this can have serious consequences for the beneficiaries, as nobody will have the legal authority to access the assets.
Instead, all of the assets outlined will be frozen and left in a state of limbo.
Our team of wills and probate solicitors can assist you throughout this process and act on your behalf if you don’t feel able to do so yourself.
What if the person dies without a Will?
If a loved one has died without leaving a Will then their estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules and will require an application to the court.
Although the process is similar to probate, it takes more time and effort for the person dealing with the estate of the deceased.
They will have to apply to the court to be appointed as the administrator of the state and the estate will then be distributed by a set of complicated rules rather than in line with the wishes of the deceased.
What are the Rules of Intestacy?
When someone dies without a will, their estate is divided up according to standard rules, known as intestacy law.
As set out in the Inheritance and Trustees’ Power Act, the rules determine who inherits what based on family connections. The rules don’t take into account the closeness of your relationships, or who is most in need.
The rules in England and Wales will allocate your estate to your family members in a strict order, depending on which relatives you leave behind. Usually, your spouse or civil partner will inherit the bulk of your estate (though unmarried partners won’t inherit anything).
The rules in Scotland are slightly different where a surviving spouse or civil partner is entitled to ‘prior rights’. This includes a share in the family home up to a value of £473,000, assuming it is in Scotland and the partner was a resident in it at the time of death.
If someone makes a will but it is not legally valid, the rules of intestacy decide how the estate will be shared out, not the wishes expressed in the will.
Therefore it is essential that you leave a legally binding Will to make sure your final wishes are able to be carried out.
Our specialist team of Probate solicitors are highly experienced and know how to handle such delicate cases with professionalism and compassion.
Click here to find out how we charge for Probate.