If you have lost someone close to you and need advice on estate administration in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge or Amesbury (or indeed anywhere else in England and Wales), our highly experienced probate solicitors can help you.
The death of a loved one is hard enough without having to start thinking of how to sort out their financial and practical affairs.
Lost a loved one and looking for local help with probate? Call our highly experienced Probate Solicitors on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or one of our four local office numbers for FREE initial phone advice – with absolutely no strings attached.
What is Probate?
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 Solicitors deal with estate administration throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset and further afield – from our offices in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge and Amesbury.
Probate for Expats
In addition to acting for clients living in England or Wales, we often act for expats who have lost family in the UK and need probate solicitors here to help them through the process of estate administration.
Click here to read more about how we can help Executors of a UK Will Living Abroad
How Bonallack & 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 highly experienced 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 are increasing numbers of executors being sued. Leave the estate in the hands of our expert team and don’t put yourself at risk of an inheritance claim.
Click here to read more about executor disputes and contested probate claims
- 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.
Click here to read about what our clients say about us – our Wills and Probate Lawyers Reviews
Personal representatives – who are they and what do they do?
“Personal representatives” (or PRs) is the overall term for executors – who are appointed by will – and administrators, who are appointed by the intestacy rules. They are responsible for ensuring that the terms of the will are carried out or, if there is no will, that the estate is dealt with in accordance with the intestacy rules. Being a personal representative is an important and responsible role and personal representatives can face personal liability in some circumstances.
How Probate Solicitors Protect PRs
In certain circumstances, PRs can become personally liable for debts of the estate or claims made against it. We will discuss with you simple steps that you may wish to take to ensure that in carrying out your role you attract no risk of personal liability.
Click here to read about the risks of DIY probate
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 and inform the deceased’s family doctor.
- 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. if you’re not sure which funeral director to appoint – just ask our team. We have close relationships with a number of reliable funeral directors locally. Check the Will for any specific funeral requests.
- Get in touch with the team here at Bonallack & Bishop. Our specialist Probate Solicitors 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? Our Probate Solicitors can help
Our team have dealt for many years with a number of highly reputable local funeral directors in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge and Amesbury – and we are happy to introduce you to them.
How much will probate cost?
The first thing you need to know is that the costs of probate are normally paid from the estate.
How much probate actually costs in the end really depends on your particular circumstances – in particular the size and complexity of the estate and whether or not you want us to be responsible for the entire administration of the estate, or just want advice and assistance on particular issues.
In any event, our team always provide free initial advice – so why not call one of our specialist probate solicitors about a tailored no obligation quote.
Why is some estate administration more complex?
That’s because probate varies as much as people do. However, some of the most common reasons for an estate becoming complex include:
· disputes between beneficiaries
· disputes over property ownership
· claims being made against the estate e.g. by someone not mentioned in the will
· the involvement of a business
· any failure to locate beneficiaries mentioned in the will
· beneficiaries being bankrupt
· enquiries by the Department for Work and Pensions and/or Inland Revenue
· assets being held abroad
· arguments that the will is invalid
What are the roles of Executors, Trustees and Guardians?
An Executor is appointed to administer your estate in the event of your death
A Trustee is appointed to hold property, money or possessions for another person until that person is due to receive it (often the case if they are too young). Here at Bonallack & Bishop, we are regularly appointed as Professional Trustees.
A Guardian is appointed to look after the children of a deceased person.
What does an Executor have to do?
As you can see from the list below, depending on the size of the estate, there is quite a lot that the executor has to do.
That’s why many people prefer probate solicitors to handle the entire process of administering the estate. 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
Click here to find out more about the role of an executor.
Can I give up my appointment as an executor?
Yes, you can and the process is known as “renouncing probate”.
Click here to read more about Renunciation of Probate
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
You have to be particularly careful if you’re looking to vary a will after the death of the testator – don’t take any chances. Our probate solicitors can provide the legal advice you need
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.
Why is probate so slow?
A report from Legal software provider, Exizent, releaseed in September 2023, found that, according to probate solicitors and other legal professionals, the main causes of delay in probate cases were as follows:
What happens to property owned in joint names?
If you own property with your spouse you are usually deemed joint tenants; so if one of you dies the other becomes sole owner of the property but cannot make a gift of their share.
Tenants in common are perhaps business partners and in the event of one’s death, their share forms part of their estate and they can make a gift of this proportion if they wish.
If you are unsure as to which tenancy you have you should seek guidance from the conveyancing solicitor who acted for you when the property was purchased.
Click here to read more about the difference between joint tenancy and tenancy in common
What happens if I do not have contact details for my Beneficiaries?
It is highly recommended that you keep in touch with them yourself to avoid creating difficulties for your appointed Executor(s) on your death. Otherwise there may be no other option than appointing a costly agent and spending money on advertisements depending on the size of the legacy.
There was no will but I am the next of kin of the deceased – can I apply for probate?
When obtaining probate, first of all you must note that a grant of probate is not given until all the outstanding inheritance tax is paid on an estate.
Secondly, if the deceased left a will that nominated an executor then this is the person who is initially entitled to obtain the grant of probate. If the executors of the valid will are unable or unwilling to apply, then the next person entitled to a grant is the person named in the will as beneficiary.
If the deceased has died intestate i.e. has not left a valid will. Then his or her next of kin could make an application for probate. Family should make an application in the following order of priority:
- Husband/wife or civil partner;
- Children (including adopted and illegitimate children);
- Siblings (Or if any have died in the lifetime of the deceased then their sons or daughters may apply)
A grant of probate is unable to be issued to anyone under 18. If more than one person is entitled to apply for a grant i.e. the deceased had more than one child. They are entitled to apply for the grant together; this is however, subject to a maximum of four people.
Are debts written off after a person dies?
No, debts are not automatically written off when a person dies – they become a liability of the estate and must be cleared before any beneficiaries are paid. If there is not enough money in the estate to clear all debts, they will be paid in order of priority. If the money runs out, the debts will likely be written off
Who is responsible for organising the funeral?
No one owns the body of a deceased person, they merely have opposing rights and duties – and a person’s wishes surrounding what will happen to their body after they die are not binding on the appointed personal representatives.
The arrangements following the death of someone fall on the executor of the Will. This responsibility falls on the executor as soon as the person in question dies.
However if the Will has not been located, no Will was written or there are insufficient funds to cover the preparations for burial, the arrangements should be made by the person who owns the house in which the body is situated or the parent of a child that has died. Otherwise the next of kin has full responsibility and lastly it falls to the local authority.
However in cases where the executors or other family members are unable to organise the funeral, or even simply can’t cope with the stress of doing so, our probate solicitors regularly organise funerals on behalf of the estate.
Burial disputes – what happens if there is a difference of opinion?
Complications usually occur where two parties wish the other not to be involved and have different wishes as to the arrangements.
This can become very stressful, as often the process happens very quickly. In instances where no inquest or post-mortem is needed to determine the cause of death, the next of kin or executor has the authority to ensure the body goes directly to the undertaker.
Where there is a contest between two parties over what happens to the body of their loved one, or there is a conflict of interest between two or more parties, it may even become necessary for the personal representatives of the deceased to make an application to court for decision full. In making this type of decision, the court will take into account the wishes of both parties.
Thankfully it’s fairly unusual for relatives to contest the executor’s decisions in relation to funeral arrangements. However, if necessary, the Court can even determine the exact arrangements for the funeral.