The death of a loved one is hard enough without having to start thinking of how to sort out their financial and practical affairs.
But when someone close to you dies, somebody has to deal with their Estate. A person’s Estate is considered to be made up of the money, property and any possessions they had at the time of their death. The process of Probate involves collecting any money that is owed, settling any debts due (including outstanding taxes) and dividing the estate among the respective beneficiaries.
All assets (including property) in an estate will remain frozen, until the Probate Registry gives the authority (via a document known as a Grant of Representation) to the individual(s) nominated in the Will, the Executor. If you have no Will, then it is up to the most appropriate member of the family to act on behalf of the Estate.
Our highly experienced Probate team deals with estate administation throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset and further afield – from our offices in Salisbury, Andover and Amesbury. And we often act for expats who have lost family locally and need solicitors in the UK to help them through the probate process
One of my loved ones has died – what do I need to do first?
Some of the things which must be done in the first few days are:
- Get hold of the medical certificate from the hospital or GP
- Find the will – the best places to look first are with the deceased solicitors, their bank or filed with their private papers at home
- Register the death within 5 days with the local Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This is usually done by either a relative, someone present at the death, or the person who is making the arrangements for the funeral.
NB It is best to try to make an appointment to see the Registrar. As well as giving you privacy this will mean you avoid waiting.
- Contact the Funeral Director to arrange the funeral.
- Get in touch with the team here at Bonallack and Bishop. We specialise in Wills and Probate work and will provide you with advice and assistance, as well as answering any immediate questions or worries you may have.
Is probate always necessary?
No. If the person who has died has only left a small estate, or if everything is held in joint names and passes straight to the surviving owner (this is often the case with a married couple), then probate might not be needed.
In many cases though, you will have to apply for either a Grant of Probate (in cases when the deceased has left a Will) or a Grant of Letter of Administration (in cases with no Will).
If you are not sure about what to do, we can help you with this.
Don’t know who to approach to organise your funeral? We can help
Our team have dealt for many years with a number of highly reputable local funeral directors in Salisbury, Andover or Amesbury – and we are happy to introduce you to them.
What is the role of the Administrator or Executor?
As you can see from the list below, depending on the size of the estate, there is quite a lot that the administrator or executor has to do.
That’s why many people prefer solicitors to handle the entire probate process for them. But remember – if you feel able to deal with some of these tasks yourself, the probate team here at Bonallack and Bishop is more than happy to help you with as much or as little of the work as you wish.
- Compile a full list of property contained in the Estate – which will include details of all bank account balances, savings, investments, personal possessions, insurance policies and any land or property owned.
- Let everyone know about the death – including credit card companies, banks or building societies, utility providers, council tax, HMRC, social security office etc.
- Notify beneficiaries – let people named in the Will or intestacy know they are in line to inherit.
- Find out if it is necessary to apply for probate. Probate might not be necessary where assets are jointly held by couples, or when the estate is relatively small.
- If necessary, apply for probate – this should be done through your Solicitor, or by applying in person at the Probate Registry.
- Collect in the assets of the estate – After the probate is granted, the Executor(s) should start to gather the assets as soon as they can. We always advise opening a separate account for the estate’s money, as this prevents it becoming muddled with your own money.
- Establish whether the Estate has any debts, and also whether any money is owed to the Estate, and then organise payment of these .
- Do the Inheritance Tax Return (if applicable) and settle any Inheritance Tax (IHT) which is due. You have to pay your IHT liability at least in part before you will be granted probate. You have six months from the end of the month when the death occurred to pay the IHT, or interest will be charged.
- Pay out any bequests. After you have settled all outstanding debts and taxes, you can then start to distribute the money left to any organisations and individuals who the deceased have named as beneficiaries in the Will.
- Draw up estate accounts – these give details of how the Estate has been divided up. You will also need to fill in an income tax form for the person who has died
Can I change my entitlement under a will?
Yes -it is legally possible for the Personal Representatives or beneficiaries of an Estate to agree to, in effect “rewrite” the Will of someone after their death. If there is no Will, they can draw one up for them. The process for doing this is called a Deed of Variation. By doing this, the estate of the deceased can be split in a different way, and perhaps in a more tax-efficient way.
Any Deed of Variation must be completed within two years of the death.
Why vary a will?
There are a number of good reasons why beneficiaries may choose to change the entitlements left under a will – the most common are:
- Saving inheritance tax – changing a will with a deed of variation can provide a real opportunity for significant tax planning
- Correcting any uncertainty or error in the will
- Changing interests under a will
- Providing an entitlement for someone who had not received enough financial provision under the will – or who had been missed out of the will completely
- Redirecting property or any other asset which was owned under a joint tenancy and which would otherwise be left to the surviving joint tenant
What does “intestate” mean?
If there is a Will the Estate will pass to the people named in the Will. If the person who has died has not made a will, then they are deemed to have been intestate. This means that the general rules of intestacy are followed when the Estate is distributed
How long does Probate take?
Completing the administration of someone’s Estate can, unless it’s very simple indeed, often take a year or more if it involves the sale of property or complex tax affairs.
How Bonallack and Bishop can help you
Our specialist probate service covers all aspects of the administration of an estate. And remember, that we can handle as much of the probate as you wish – either helping and advising you to complete the probate, or administering the entire estate ourselves.
Whether you are an Executor or the next of kin, our specialist probate solicitors can provide practical guidance to help you deal with the administration of someone’s Estate.
In particular :
- You might want to deal with most of the administration of the estate yourself, but need help with the more complex parts of the process such as applying for the Probate itself, completing the Inheritance Tax forms or drawing up the accounts before the money is distributed.
We can work with you to agree who is going to do what, and agree timescales.
- Alternatively, you may want us to handle the entire estate. We can take on responsibility for everything, right from sorting through paperwork to letting the right people know about the death, completing the probate application, collecting in the assets of the estate, settling any outstanding debts, dealing with any property sales of any property and eventually distributing the estate
- When dealing with simple estates or those of a small value, we can help you work out whether or not Probate will be required, and can help you find this out. You may be able to go on and manage the estate without further legal help.We provide FREE no obligation initial phone advice, and immediate guidance if required
- If there is property or land that need to be sold or transferred, our specialist conveyancing team provide a seamless service alongside their probate colleagues.Our Probate Solicitors can also arrange the transfer or sale of any shares and owned by the deceased.
- Using Bonallack and Bishop takes away the risk of acting as an executor. Challenges to wills and probate are becoming far more common, and there have been cases of executors being sued. Leave the estate in the hands of our expert team and don’t put yourself at risk.
- From the outset we will discuss our fees for this sort of work, and we can pull together an estimate of what the costs are likely to be in total. If things look like taking longer or are more complicated than expected, we will let you know and will discuss any increase to the legal costs.
- We can also help in situations where you are not sure whether a will exists, or when you have come across an old will but think there may be a more up to date copy somewhere. We can help carry out a search of the national register of wills, and will explain any costs associated with this.
Our specialist team of probate solicitors is made up of experts with vast experience in this areas of the law. Each member of the team has a direct line and personal email address, making contact very easy.