Probate and Estate Administration
What is Probate?
In England and Wales ‘probate’ is the word normally used to describe the legal and financial processes involved in dealing with the property, money and possessions (called the estate) of a person who has died. In fact ‘probate’ is only one part of the process of administering somebody’s estate. Before the executor named in the Will can claim, transfer, sell or distribute any of the deceased’s assets they might have to apply for a Grant of Probate and this is done through the Probate Registry. A Grant of Probate is a legal document issued by the Probate Registry which confirms that a person’s Will has been validated by the Probate Registry. It confirms who the executors are. The Grant of Probate therefore confirms that the executors have the legal authority to deal with the estate. The Grant of Probate is sometimes just called ‘probate’.
What if there is no Will?
If the deceased died without a Will the law will determine who will receive the estate and also which of the deceased person’s relatives is entitled to administer the estate. In such case, a Grant of Letters of Administration is obtained from the Probate Registry and the deceased’s relative named in the Grant of Letters of Administration (the Administrator) will then be able to deal with the estate.
What does administration of an estate involve?
The process of dealing with someone’s estate after they die can involve a lot of complicated legal, tax and financial work.
It can include:
- identifying if there is a valid Will. This can be straightforward or might involve searches and enquiries. If there is no Will, identifying who is entitled to administer the estate and inherit the estate. This might be straightforward or might involve constructing a family tree and tracing missing relatives.
- identifying the deceased’s assets (property, investments and possessions) and liabilities (debts ranging from loans to utility bills), in order to determine the value of the estate. This will involve contacting financial institutions for up to date valuations and might involve obtaining professional valuations of property or personal possessions.
- submitting an inheritance tax return and applying to the Probate Registry. When an application is made to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration an inheritance tax return must also be submitted, whether or not there is tax due. If inheritance tax is due, then arrangements must be made for this to be paid from the deceased person’s estate.
- after the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration has been issued, liquidating the deceased’s assets. This might include selling property, closing bank accounts, collecting in the proceeds of investments and life insurance policies.
- settling the deceased person’s liabilities, paying the final estate administration expenses and accounting to HMRC for any further inheritance tax.
- distributing the remaining estate according to the Will or the intestacy rules and preparing estate accounts to document all payments into and out of the estate, and show the balance left for distribution to the beneficiaries.
Looking for further information?
If you are the executor or administrator of an estate you have a legal responsibility to ensure that the estate is properly administered. This can be an onerous task. It can be especially difficult if you were closely related to the person who has died and are also coming to terms with your loss. You might wish to instruct a solicitor to help you and you are entitled to do so. In most cases you do not have to instruct the solicitors who might be holding the deceased person’s Will.
Here at Alexander Grace Law we have sympathetic and experienced staff who can help you with all or part of the process of administration of the estate. We are happy to undertake the whole process or you might just wish us to deal with the inheritance tax return and application to the Probate Registry. We are happy to discuss your individual requirements. Please contact us for further information.