Probate and estate administration lawyers - areas of specialism
Probate is the process of sorting out a person’s estate after they have passed away. This can include repaying debts and distributing assets in accordance with their Will, if there is one, or through rules of intestacy if no Will was made. If you have been appointed as the executor of a person’s estate, there are specific rules that dictate how the estate will be distributed and how to notify the authorities. At Stephensons, our experts can help you with this process - find out more about the role of an executor. Our areas of expertise include:
- Obtaining grants of probate (if there is a will)
- Grants of letters of administration (if there is no will)
- Dealing with the administration of an estate and distribution to beneficiaries
- Preparation of estate accounts for personal representatives
- Preparation of and advice on inheritance tax returns
- Post-death arrangements to reduce inheritance tax
Whether the estate is small and straightforward or highly complex, our probate solicitors can help ease the burden at this stressful time. Contact us today on 01616 966 229.
We offer video meetings, using most of the commonly available apps. Not only is this more convenient for you, to save having to come to an office, but it also allows you to conveniently have a family member or friend with you, who also does not need to travel. Sometimes when meeting a solicitor it is useful to have someone else who can ask any questions that you may miss or help you recall something afterwards.
We are happy for you to have someone with you if that makes you feel more comfortable but occasionally we may need to ask them to leave the meeting for a period of time to make sure that we understand your true wishes without outside influence.
Of course you do not have to have anyone with you in meetings and many of our clients do not. We aim to deliver services, whether it be by video, telephone or in the office, in a friendly, approachable and understandable way.
Probate and estate administration FAQs
Why does an estate have to obtain probate?
An estate will need to have a Grant of Probate if the deceased person owned property and had other assets in their sole name. Depending on their value, assets which are held in a person's sole name (property, bank accounts, shares and other investments) will often require a grant of probate or a grant of letters of administration before they can be cashed in or sold. Some assets are owned jointly, such as a joint bank account or a jointly owned house. Grants are not usually needed for these assets to pass to the surviving joint owner. The value of the share may have to be declared for inheritance tax though.
Do I need probate for a small estate?
Whether or not you will need probate for a small estate will depend on whether the deceased held assets in their sole name. If they owned property, including land, houses or buildings, then probate is required. If they don’t own any property but have bank accounts or investments in their sole name, then depending on their value, you may need a grant of representation. Financial institutions, such as banks, set their own limits on when probate is required, so you will need to check with each individual organisation to see if you will need a grant of representation to deal with them.
How to value an estate for probate?
Valuing an estate for probate is one of the first tasks that will need to be completed. The best place to start is to make a list of all the deceased assets, debts and you will need to include non-tax-exempt gifts that were made in the last seven years before their death. Depending on the complexity of the estate, this can take some time. At Stephensons, our probate solicitors can help you to value the estate of your loved one. For more information about our probate services, contact us today on 01616 966 229.
Can you settle an estate without probate?
You can only settle an estate without probate if the deceased didn't own property and their other sole owned assets, such as bank accounts, are under the financial institution's threshold for grant of representation. If all assets are held in joint names, then you may be able to settle the estate without probate.
How long after probate do you need to distribute the estate?
Once probate is granted, or if there is no will, letter of administration, it can take up to 6-12 months for all the debts to be settled, funds transferred, and assets sold. If the estate is large and complex, this may take longer.
Can you sue an estate after probate?
It is possible to sue an estate or challenge a Will after probate has been issued, however, it may mean that the case is made more complex. There are time limits when it comes to contesting probate and these vary, depending on the nature of the claim:
- An inheritance Act claim for financial provision from an estate has a six-month time limit from the date of the Grant of Probate
- A beneficiary claiming against an estate has a 12-year time limit
- Fraud/claiming against an executor for appropriating estate assets does not have a time limit
Do we have to pay any tax?
There are three taxes which could apply when administering an estate. There may be inheritance tax to pay on the value of the net estate. There could be capital gains tax to pay on the increase in the value of certain assets (e.g a house or shareholding investments) between the date of death and the date of sale. Income tax could be payable on any "income" into the estate since the date of death (e.g. bank interest since the date of death).
What do we do about debts?
If the estate is solvent (there are more assets than debts) then the debts are usually paid off after the personal representatives have collected in all the assets, once they have obtained the grant. Sometimes gifts in a Will are left subject to a charge or secured debt. Sometimes a Will sets aside a fund for the payment of debts. A properly drafted Will should provide the personal representatives with all they need to know about how debts should be paid from the estate.
Do we need to keep records?
Personal representatives should keep records of the funds they have collected in and debts they have paid out from the estate. The beneficiaries of an estate may be entitled to see an estate account when they receive their share of the estate.