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How our probate solicitors can help

Whether you are a beneficiary or the executor of a will, our team of legal experts will work closely with you throughout the whole estate administration process. We will provide you with comprehensive advice and support, carefully taking into consideration the specific requirements of the estate.

We will also guide you through the application for a Grant of Probate by dealing with the various forms and paperwork required for both HMRC and the Probate Registry. We will ensure the estate is properly distributed and that you meet all of its obligations.

If you have been named as an executor of a will, we will work closely with you to establish an accurate list of all of the assets owned by the deceased, both in the UK and abroad, as well as identifying any outstanding debts such as loans, mortgages and unpaid bills.

Where the individual has died without having a valid will in place, legally known as ‘dying intestate’, our experts will provide you with the support and legal advice required to administer the estate in accordance with the statutory intestacy rules.

If you are also dealing with probate disputes then we may be able to help. Take a look at our contentious probate page.

Highly experienced probate solicitors

Our probate solicitors and legal experts are highly experienced in dealing with all aspects of estate administration.

Their work includes advising on obtaining grants of probate and letters of administration, settling estate and tax liabilities and distributing estates in accordance with the terms of the will.

In the unfortunate event of a dispute arising between beneficiaries, executors or individuals wishing to claim against the estate, we also have a dedicated in-house Contentious Probate team who specialise in resolving will and estate disputes whilst minimising costs and risks and maintaining relationships wherever possible.

What is probate?

‘Probate’, ‘grant of probate’ or ‘grant of representation’ are the terms commonly used when discussing a person’s estate when they die. A grant of probate is a document obtained from the court when the deceased left a valid will and the executors appointed in the will need evidence of their authority to deal with the estate.

Is a grant of probate necessary to administer an estate?

A grant of probate is not always required, for example, if the deceased had no assets or a small amount of money in a bank account.

However, it will always be required if the deceased owned property in their sole name, and sometimes where a property is owned jointly as tenants-in-common (where each joint owner owns a separate share in the property) or if the deceased owned a substantial number of shares or had substantial savings.

It is important to remember that an executor is appointed in the will and their authority to deal with the estate comes from the will. The grant of probate confirms that authority.

Each financial institution has its own threshold in terms of value that it will be willing to release to the personal representatives without requiring sight of the grant, if the deceased held assets above that threshold the financial institution will want to see the grant of representation to ensure that they are dealing with the correct individuals.

What if the executor does not distribute the estate after probate?

The role of an executor or personal representative is a challenging one and it can be a long and difficult process however, executors should be open with beneficiaries and consider making interim distributions from an estate where practical and appropriate. Sometimes executors do not fulfil their duty or are not forthcoming with information. We can help clients to obtain a copy of the Will (if there is one), once probate has been granted. If an executor is not co-operating and there are suspicions of fraudulent activity we can work alongside our litigation department to commence legal proceedings.

What if there is no will?

If the deceased did not leave a valid will then the laws of intestacy will apply to the deceased’s estate. These laws set out who is entitled to administer the estate (known as an administrator) and also who is entitled to benefit from the estate. It is not always the case that a deceased’s estate simply passes to their spouse or civil partner.

Once it has been determined who is entitled to apply as an administrator, an application for a ‘grant of letters of administration’ will need to be made to the court so that the deceased’s estate can be dealt with.

An administrator obtains their authority to deal with the estate from the court, unlike an executor whose authority comes from the will.

How is an estate administered?

There are five main stages to administering an estate which need to be dealt with by the executor or administrator (also known as the ‘personal representatives’):

  1. Investigating the estate. The personal representative(s) will need to ascertain the extent of the assets and liabilities in the estate and valuing it. This will involve contacting the deceased’s banks or building societies and liaising with other organisations such as National Savings and Investments, share registrars, pension or life policy companies etc. If the deceased owned a property then this will also need to be valued.
  2. Applying for the grant and paying any inheritance tax that may be due. The HM Revenue and Customs forms that need to be completed will depend on the value of the estate and the deceased’s circumstances.
  3. Collecting in the estate assets. Once the grant has been issued, the personal representatives will need to collect in the deceased’s assets. This will normally include closing their bank/savings accounts, selling shares and selling any property.
  4. Paying the deceased’s liabilities.
  5. Finalising and distributing the estate in accordance with the will or the laws of intestacy.

How long does probate (or a grant of representation) take?

The time it takes to obtain probate is dependent on many different factors and each case is different but as a general guide, a straightforward estate could be finalised within three to six months.

Typically obtaining a grant of probate takes between eight and twelve weeks, collecting the assets should take between two and six weeks and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries would normally take between two and four weeks. If the estate includes a property that is being sold, that is likely to increase the length of time it will take to administer the estate.

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