What We Do in a Probate

Our Probate Services

In order for us to be able to carry out the work involved in obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration, it will be necessary for us to undertake various tasks.  Some of these are of a practical nature so that we can actually deal with the assets and liabilities, some are required by law and others are necessary so that an accurate value of the deceased’s estate can be reached.

The work which we will need to undertake in order to deal with a grant of probate or the administration of an estate will depend upon the complexity of the estate and what is required to be done.  Thus, a simple estate comprising a bank account, an insurance policy and some savings in a building society being left to a single child of the deceased person will require far less work than if there are houses – with some possibly overseas – shares and investments, complex endowments and insurance policies, business interests and multiple gifts and beneficiaries to be administered.

We will always advise you to the best of our ability at the outset as to the likely complexity of the arrangements.

As a general overview, however, the kind of work that would need
to be carried out in the administration of an estate could include:

  • Taking initial instructions from you;
  • Providing you with information about the terms of the deceased’s Will and, where appropriate, discussing the duties of the executors;
  • Getting in a valuation of any assets of the deceased and working out whether there are any liabilities such as debts. This might involve writing to utility providers such as gas, electricity, telephone etc., dealing with council tax, dealing with house insurance (and in particular making sure that it does not lapse following the death), finding out about shares and investments and gathering together details of any bank accounts;
  • When we have been able to get a value for the estate, preparing the Inheritance Tax form and the application for the grant and working out the Inheritance Tax (if any) payable in the Estate;
  • Where appropriate, submitting the Inheritance Tax to HMRC and arranging the first payment of Inheritance Tax from the assets of the estate. We can then submit the application for the Grant of Probate;
  • Once we have the Grant, sending it, and any relevant letters of authority, to the various banks, insurers, financial institutions, and managers of investment in order to collect in the assets and discharge any liabilities;
  • Taking any further steps needed in relation to Inheritance Tax and obtaining a clearance certificate from HMRC;
  • Making arrangements for the disposal of any property such as houses, possessions and so forth that have not been specifically left to beneficiaries;
  • Arranging any necessary statutory notices for creditors in the London Gazette/Local press;
  • Identifying and then corresponding with beneficiaries regarding the distribution of the estate and paying any interim legacies or any pecuniary legacies that are due under the Will;
  • Preparing Estate Accounts for executors;
  • Carrying out bankruptcy checks for beneficiaries;
  • Ultimately paying out the final balance.

Be assured that we will always keep you fully informed as to what we are doing and why.

How Long will it Take?

We will always aim is to make sure that the probate takes no longer than is absolutely necessary. It is in no one’s interests for these matters to drag on for any longer than is required. Please bear in mind, however, that sometimes the length of time will depend upon factors outside of your or our control.

We would suggest that, except in the simplest of matters, the full administration of an estate, which can include the sale and realisation of proceeds of one or more properties as well as handling investments and insurances, could take between 5 and 9 months, or even longer if complications arise or there are disputes between beneficiaries. Typically, obtaining the Grant of Probate takes 8 to 12 weeks. Collecting assets then follows, which can take between 4 to 6 weeks (although this will be longer if there is a property that needs to be sold). Once this has been done, we can distribute the assets, which normally takes 8 to 12 weeks.

There are many factors which can affect how long a probate will take to deal with – some of them entirely outside of our hands. These include the complexity of the deceased’s estate and the number of organisations involved in the process (for example banks, share registrars, beneficiaries, business partners, insurers, accountants, HMRC and estate agents). Often the length of time that others take to respond is the overriding factor in how long the process will take in total and we have little or no ability to expedite this.

Moreover, we cannot finalise an estate until such time as all claims on the estate have been received. Anyone wishing to make a claim on the estate has six months from the date probate is granted to make such a claim against the estate. For this reason, we suggest that the process is going to take at least eight months to a year.

If the deceased person died without having made a will and we therefore have to deal with the estate under what are known as “the intestacy rules”, then it is likely that process will take even longer as we will need to establish who the beneficiaries are.

The most common factors that increase timescales and so would increase costs are:

  • Checking that the will is valid;
  • The extent to which the family, executors and beneficiaries of the deceased person are willing to cooperate;
  • The extent of the enquiries that need to be made to identify beneficiaries;
  • Obtaining the death certificate and/or arrange the funeral;
  • Dealing with the deceased’s property, which might include house clearance, insurance claims, making the property safe or problems with overseas properties;
  • Complicated estates which have multiple accounts or properties and complex financial planning;
  • Dealing with foreign assets generally;
  • Any business in which the deceased was involved at the date of death or any farming assets;
  • Any complex trusts that the deceased wishes to establish or under which the deceased was a beneficiary at the date of death;
  • Locating missing beneficiaries and obtaining missing beneficiary insurance where appropriate;
  • Dealing with tax;
  • Dealing with property sales; and
  • Preparing any deeds of variation of the terms of a will.

For more information please contact Sarah Dixon & Co Solicitors at [email protected]