Probate solicitors - estate administration

Dealing with a bereavement is difficult enough but sometimes you might also be required to handle the administration of a loved ones estate.

You may have to arrange the funeral, go through personal papers to find out what assets and debts there may be, apply to the probate registry and deal with beneficiaries and other family members. Being a personal representative of an estate can be an onerous task. We can help by advising personal representatives what to do and even deal with the entire estate on your behalf.

We aim to make our estate administration pricing as transparent as possible. We strive to achieve this by providing all inclusive fixed prices for our probate services rather than charging hourly rates or complex percentage rates based on multiple variable.

If you would like to speak to a specialist probate solicitor in relation to the administration of an estate please call us on 0203 837 3658 for a no obligation initial chat with one of our friendly advisors. 

Evening and Saturday appointments are available in some locations, contact us for more information.

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Probate and estate administration - areas of specialism

  • Obtaining grants of probate (if there is a Will) and 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

Probate - estate administration FAQs

Do we need to go through probate?

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.
 

How long does probate take?

The "probate" procedure involves the personal representatives getting values of assets, taking from this any debt amounts and then sending an affidavit and details of value of the estate to the probate registry. The time involved largely depends on what is in the estate. If there is only a house then it will depend on the housing market and how quickly a sale can be agreed. If there are bank accounts (over £5,000 usually) then you may be able to get the grant within about one month. If there are shares however if could take longer. The more wide ranging the types of assets there are in an estate the longer it could take. If inheritance tax has to be paid, the values of the assets in an estate may have to be agreed with the inland revenue and this could take time.
 

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 gain in 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.

Solicitors for the Elderly - Accredited

Probate Video Panel

  • Wills & Probate - why choose Stephensons?

    Jill Rushton talks about the importance of instructing a fully regulated specialist when making a Will, seeking advice in relation to a lasting power of attorney, handling the administration of an estate or any other related service. Jill also highlights why she would recommend the services of the Wills and Probate team at Stephensons discussing the accreditation's the team hold and why the services represent good value for money.
    [youtube url="​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UOUZZ9ih74"]

  • Guide to probate - what to do when someone dies

    Dealing with the financial affairs of a loved one who has died is a challenging responsibility at an already emotional and stressful time. Our team of experienced solicitors are here to assist you with this simple guide of what to expect.

    [youtube url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSvVi4CRSVY"]

How much does probate cost?

Grant of probate/grant of letters of administration only - £849 plus VAT*
Executors/administrators can then deal with the administration of the estate after we have obtained the grant for them.
 
Dealing with entire estate (obtaining grant, collecting in assets and distributing to beneficiaries)
Average estate values are under £325,000 and with no inheritance tax payable, where this is the case our average prices are :
 
Basic price range
Estate of 1 property and up to 4 accounts - £1,500 plus VAT*
Estate of 1 property and from 5 to 10 accounts - £2,100 plus VAT*
 
Additional costs relating to the administration of the estate
If there is no Will there will be an additional charge in relation to the increased complexity £300 plus VAT*
 
Banded fee scale in relation to number of shareholdings/stock
Additional fee as follows:
1 to 3 share holdings - £100 plus VAT*
3 to 5 share holdings - £250 plus VAT*
6 plus share holdings - £300 plus VAT*
 
Banded fee scale in relation to number of beneficiaries
Additional fee as follows:
3 to 5 beneficiaries - £100 plus VAT
6 plus beneficiaries - £250 plus VAT
 
*Third party costs
  • Probate Court fee of £155
  • £0.50 for each office copy of the grant required (1 per asset usually)
  • £3 plus VAT HM Land Registry official copy entry
  • £2 bankruptcy search
  • £5 plus VAT for electronic ID search
  • HM Land Registry registration fees based on scales and the value and status of the property
  • Other third party costs will be advised as required, e.g. accountant’s fee for potential income tax return, statutory advertisement fee to advertise for unknown creditors, asset tracing fee
  • There may be additional third party costs for lost share certificates and share registrar and/or sale agent fees on transfer or sale of the shares
  • S27 Advertisements in the London Gazette and a local newspaper in from £150 - £300 depending on the local newspaper advertising costs.
  • Stockbroker fees - £25 - £150 depending on the number of shareholdings to be dealt with.

How long will the probate process take?

If obtaining a grant of probate only the process will typically take 4-8 weeks, the full administration of an estate can take around 6 months as the process is reliant on 3rd parties.

Key stages of obtaining grant of probate

  • Taking instructions,
  • Obtaining estate values from executor
  • Preparation of oath and HMRC forms
  • Attendance to swear oath
  • Submission to Probate Registry/HMRC
  • Obtaining grant and copies and provision to executor 

Key stages - administration of estate

Our prices include the following:

  • Taking instructions
  • Obtaining estate values
  • Preparation of oath and HMRC forms
  • Attendance to swear oath
  • Submission to Probate Registry/HMRC
  • Payment of tax (if any)
  • Obtaining grant and copies
  • Providing these to financial institutions
  • Collecting in assets
  • Preparation of estate accounts
  • Obtaining executor approval and distribution of the estate 
  • *not included in the price are the sales fees on properties, estate agency, taxes and  HMLR fees.

What qualifications do the team hold?

All estate administration work is supervised by a qualified solicitor. Specific experience can be seen in the individual staff profiles.

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I lost my best friend and Stephensons helped me through this very tough period of being the executor. I found them to be extremely helpful and efficient. They told me exactly how the process would work step by step. They never failed to answer any of the many emails I sent. I felt very fortunate to have had them working for me. I would not hesitate to recommend them.
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What to do when someone dies - a guide to probate

Dealing with the financial affairs of a loved one who has died is a challenging responsibility at an already emotional and stressful time. Our team of experienced solicitors are here to assist you with a simple guide of what to expect.

After coming to terms with the loss of a loved one you may also be faced with the practical matters of dealing with a death. Initially the death must be reported to a doctor who will issue a medical certificate.

A funeral director can then begin to make arrangements and the death certificate can be issued.

It is advisable to retrieve the Will to check the identity of the executors unless you prefer to wait until after the funeral. It is important to seek the advice of a legal professional, as a solicitor can relieve any complex issues and speed up the process by dealing with the legal paperwork.

Registering a death

When someone dies, the death must be registered with the local Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. Usually a close family member registers the death. All deaths in England and Wales should be registered within five days of the death unless there is a delay due to the involvement of the coroner.

At the register office you will need

  • The medical certificate of cause of death, signed by the doctor, unless it has already been sent straight to the registrar
  • The NHS medical card of the deceased
  • The deceased’s birth certificate, if you have it

You will be asked for the following information about the deceased:

  • Full name, including maiden name (and any other former names or aliases)
  • Address and occupation
  • Date and place of birth as shown on the birth certificate
  • Date and place of death as shown on the medical certificate of cause of death
  • Name and date of birth of the deceased’s spouse whether living or not (and in Scotland details of former spouses)
  • Spouse or civil partner’s occupation

When someone dies you need to apply for the legal authority to deal with their property, money and possessions (also known as their estate). This is known as the grant of representation and is the legal authority obtained through the probate registry.

What is probate?

Probate is a term used for the legal document you require in order to deal with the estate. The legal document will be referred to as a grant of probate if there is a Will or grant of letters of administration if there is no Will. It gives those who are responsible permission to deal with the estate when the value of the estate is over £5,000 after the funeral costs have been deducted. However, certain assets such as shareholdings and life policies may require the grant even if the estate is under £5000.

Is there a Will?

The Will should appoint executors who are responsible for managing the estate.

What is an executor?

The person outlined in the Will who is responsible for dealing with the deceased’s estate. It is a position which carries duties and responsibilities. If the executor is not sure about the deceased’s financial dealings they should consider placing statutory advertisements which are legal notices to protect the executor against unknown creditors.

What is an estate?

An estate is the value of the deceased’s assets less any debts, such as the funeral account.

If there is no Will

If there is no Will the individual has ‘died intestate’ therefore any assets will be split according to the rules of intestacy. These rules set out who is entitled to share in the estate in a fixed order. The same rules will apply if a Will is not legally valid. Any Will or intestate estate is capable of being varied if all beneficiaries are in agreement. Please speak to one of our team for more information.

Grant of representation

To gather in certain financial policies and bank accounts you must apply for a ‘grant of representation.’ This means you will be officially appointed to carry out the expressed wishes according to the Will or rules of intestacy and distribute the estate.

You will need to complete the relevant forms and have all the figures to hand. In some complex cases this could take several months. Your legal advisor can help with your application and present the correct evidence in order to speed up the process.

A grant of representation may not be needed if any assets are jointly owned. You will need a copy of the death certificate to establish how much the estate is worth and if assets can be obtained without a grant of representation.

Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax must be paid before a grant of representation is issued. If it is not paid within six months after the person’s death, interest will be applied and additional financial penalties may be incurred. In some cases the tax can be paid in annual instalments. The rates of inheritance tax can be confusing but your legal advisor will be able to guide you through the process ensuring you comply with rules set by HM Revenue and Customs.

Distributing the estate

Once any property is sold and monies are collected in, the debts should be paid. Estate accounts should be produced showing monies coming in and going out of the estate. All beneficiaries should be named in the accounts and their entitlement documented. Once any outstanding debts have been paid the estate can be distributed to those who are named in the will or under the rules of intestacy.

Documentation

If inheritance tax is paid, all paperwork should be kept until HM Revenue & Customs have sent a letter of clearance (stating all their enquiries are complete). This can sometimes take a number of months after the grant of representation has been issued.

If there is a potential challenge to the estate, time limits can apply in which to bring a challenge, based on the date of the grant of representation. A member of our team will be able to assist further with advice around this.  

If you would like to speak to member of the specialist probate and estate administration team here at Stephensons please call us on 0203 837 3658 and we would be happy to discuss your situation and how we can help. You can also complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.

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As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.