What is Probate?

What is Probate?

When somebody passes away leaving a Will, they will appoint the Executors of the estate. These are the people who have the right to apply for a Grant of Probate in the estate.

Those Executors who wish to act in the estate and, ultimately, obtain the Grant of Probate are legally responsible and liable for the administration of the estate of the deceased. The decision to act as an Executor in the estate is a very important one because it carries this responsibility.

To administer an estate correctly and to obtain a Grant of Probate involves a series of interdependent legal, tax and administrative activities.

It also involves communication with many parties including the Court, HMRC and financial institutions. These must be carefully carried out in order for the estate to be administered correctly.

When is Probate required?

A Grant of Probate will be required in the following situations:-

• Where a property is held in the sole name of the deceased or as “tenants in common” with another;
• Where the deceased held assets of £5,000 or more with financial institutions. Every bank and financial institution have their own threshold and may use a higher threshold than £5,000 before they require evidence of the Grant of Probate to release the funds, or they may always require the Grant of Probate depending on the type of investment. It is always worth checking with these organisations to ascertain exactly what they require; and
• Where the deceased benefited from a trust during their lifetime.

What are the responsibilities of an Executor?

Some of the duties of an Executor are as follows:-

• Gather information of all the assets and liabilities of the estate as at the date of death;
• Examine any gifts worth more than £3,000 that the deceased made in the seven years before they died, and any other transfers such as putting money into a trust, because they may be subject to Inheritance Tax;
• File an Inheritance Tax return and final personal Income return with HMRC;
• Administer the estate in accordance with the Will provisions;
• Settle any debts of the estate; and
• Distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.

If the Executors do not pay all the debts or incorrectly distributes the estate they can be sued and may be personally liable to rectify any mistakes.

How can we help?

Administering an estate involves matters which need to be done within a certain deadline. Obtaining a Grant of Probate and ensuring all matters have been dealt with appropriately can also take up a considerable amount of time and often add to an already stressful situation.

There are lots of places you can go if you and the other Executors decide you need help to administer the estate, but there are some things you should always consider. For example, think twice before appointing a will writer or bank to carry out probate on your behalf. Some can charge set fees of between 2% and 5% of the value of the estate. On an estate worth £300,000 this could be anything up to £15,000, plus VAT.

At Leonard Gray we have lawyers who are experienced experts in this area. In sorting out the financial and other matters after someone has passed away, we know the formalities that need to be dealt with for probate and can do this efficiently and properly. There might be Inheritance Tax or possibly trusts issues which come up. We know how difficult things can be and we strive to make sure we relieve whatever burden we can.

Leonard Gray are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and will provide you with a breakdown of costs from the outset. One of our specialist solicitors will always be on hand to manage the process and answer any questions you may have, minimising delays.
We can deal with the whole of an estate for you in a swift and practical manner. We will make sure that all of the assets and money is drawn in and paid to the right people. We will finalise all tax matters properly. We know what difficulties to look out for and will provide a sympathetic ear throughout.

How do I book an appointment?

To book an appointment or to have an initial informal chat, please contact Celia Pye on 01245 504904 or one of our solicitors.
If you are coming to our office in Chelmsford, car parking is available at the rear of our building and wheelchair access can be easily arranged. If necessary, our solicitors can also visit you at home or in hospital.

How can I find out more?

Please click on this link to find out more information with our Guide to Administering an Estate.

Chris is an experienced, friendly and professional Solicitor with our "Wills, Probate, Later Years" team. Chris is partner of Leonard Gray and a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), which is the leading professional body for practitioners in the fields of trusts and estates. He is also a Trustee/Director of Age UK Essex and a Dementia Friend.