Probate and Administration of Estates
The administration of an Estate following the death of a relative or close friend can be a painful and daunting task.
At Lawson Lewis Blakers we have a team of sympathetic and expert lawyers to assist you. We have invested considerable effort in our work systems to ensure that matters are dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
We are always pleased to provide an estimate of our charges – which are based upon time spent working on each case and not as with many solicitors upon a percentage value of the estate.
The process is generally known as administration of an estate.
If the deceased died leaving a Will the application for a Grant of Probate is made and if there is no Will the process is carried out on the basis of “intestacy”.
Administration falls into the following main stages:-
Generally speaking the following preliminary steps are taken:-
- Identify whether there is a valid Will in existence
- If so whether it contains any requests in relation to the funeral
- Register the death – normally this must be done within 7 days and funeral arrangements may not be finalised until this has been done.
- Collect together the deceased’s papers and establish details of the assets/liabilities and income of the deceased
We will communicate with asset holders (such as banks) and verify the financial position. At this time the deceased’s assets (save for joint accounts which pass automatically to the surviving holder) are frozen.
We will write to any beneficiaries named in the Will or if there is no Will make enquiries as to the order of relatives entitled to benefit from the estate under the Intestacy Rules. The “Will Reading” legendary of crime thrillers is largely a myth!
The Executor’s legal authority derives from the Will and an Order of the Court known as a “Grant of Probate”.
Where there is no Will, the Administrator’s authority derives from an Order of the Court known as a “Grant of Letters of Administration”.
Asset holders will (save in the case of very small Estates) decline to distribute assets without having sight of the Grant.
In order to apply for a Grant the Executor/Administrator must complete a Probate Application Form (PA1P) which incorporates a legal statement known as a Statement of Truth (exhibit the original Will and any Codicil where those exist), and an Inheritance Tax Return. Or in certain cases a receipt from HMRC that they have received the Inheritance Tax Return. We will calculate and advise as to any liabilities for Inheritance Tax.
Once the Grant has been issued by the Probate Registry the distribution of the Estate can commence and the following are amongst the issues that may need to be considered.
- Realising monies held in bank accounts, etc.
- Deciding whether certain assets should be sold or distributed between beneficiaries without being sold and their value taken into account in respect of any beneficiaries entitlement
- Consider making “Section 27 advertisements”:-
- These protect Executors from claims by unknown creditors of the Estate who emerge after the Estate has been distributed (otherwise an Executor may be personally liable to pay these sums).
- Agree with the Revenue Authorities the income tax/capital gains tax position at death (filing tax a return where necessary).
- Ensure that there has been no under or over payment of income to the deceased at the date of death. Claims for recoupment of state benefits allegedly overpaid are becoming increasingly common and a knowledge of the benefits system is needed to deal with those.
Once “clearance” has been gained from the tax authorities and the time limits required pursuant to the Section 27 Notices have expired the Estate may be distributed. In large Estates where an administration is protracted for some reason we may advise an earlier “interim “ distribution.
- We will prepare Estate Accounts verifying the assets in the Estate, all income received during the administration period and all payments made out for payment of debts, tax and distribution to the beneficiaries.
- We are also able to advise as to:-
- The position if an Estate becomes disputed perhaps because a claim as to a Will’s validity or a claim from a disappointed dependent (see separate detailed note).
- Beneficiaries will sometimes wish to re-arrange the distribution of an Estate amongst themselves – for a variety of reasons including tax mitigation on their own estates. This is known as a “Deed of Variation”.
- We will provide residuary beneficiaries with a tax certificate IR185E1. to enable them to account to the Revenue for any tax due on income received from the Estate
- We are able to advise and assist as to the formation and administration of Trusts arising from Wills
- We are able to assist beneficiaries with a review of their affairs including a financial review, review of your tax situation and appropriate revision of your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney (see separate note).