At Elite Law Solicitors, our team of experienced and knowledgeable probate solicitors provide a comprehensive probate service, and are ready to assist if you require expert legal advice or assistance following the death of a loved one.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be emotional and having the difficult task of juggling that while taking on the challenge of administration of the estate can be an incredibly daunting prospect.
The role of executor or administrator, and the estate administration duties involved, can be very time-consuming and challenging as it involves following a specific process, completing complicated forms and a knowledge of both the law and taxation.
Specialist Probate Solicitors
Our specialist probate solicitors can walk you through the process step-by-step and ensure that the estate is dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.
We have a vast amount of experience in administering estates and can provide you with as much or as little assistance as required.
We represent clients throughout the country and in addition to office meetings, we offer virtual meetings via telephone or video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Probate is defined in England and Wales as the encompassing process of administering the estate of a deceased person. Probate includes the organisation of all assets – such as possessions, money, and property – of a person who has passed away.
The probate process refers to the entire financial and legal system involved in handling the assets of someone who has died, from applying for a grant of probate to carrying out requested sales, transfers and distributions included as part of the Will.
Probate ends once all necessary processes are complete, including the payment of taxes and debts. All matters relating to inheritance must also be completed to end probate. In England and Wales, approval for a grant of probate is required before any claims, transfers, sales, or distribution defined in the Will can be enacted upon.
What is a Grant of Probate?
If you are named an executor in a Will, an application and approval for a Grant of Probate is required. The Grant of Probate provides authorisation for the executor to deal with the deceased’s assets as laid out within the Will. This legal document is necessary to access certain assets, such as bank accounts and settle existing debts and taxes.
When you apply for a Grant of Probate with a Will, you need to provide specific documentation and information to the government. The more information you have to hand, the less time you will need to prepare. An inventory of assets, property valuation, death certificate, debt information and tax details can all be used as part of the probate application.
Our experienced probate solicitors can assist you with your probate application, with the average time from application to authorisation taking up to 8 weeks. Once the executor has been authorised, that individual can then continue handling the assets legally.
In cases where no Will exists, probate still applies in a slightly different form. Instead, a Grant of Letters of Administration will be granted to a specific person to carry out the required legal process. Typically, this is next of kin as defined under the rules of intestacy. We have covered what happens if there is no Will in greater detail below.
Is probate always required?
Probate is required as a legal process in England and Wales in specific circumstances. One case in which probate is needed is where the deceased solely owned property, land or similar assets. In some cases, a bank or financial institution may also request a Grant of Probate to access specific assets such as savings or bonds.
Many people confuse the concept of probate with the act of handling the Will itself. Probate still applies whether or not an individual has a Will in place, though slightly different terms may be used, such as a “Grant of Letters of Administration” instead of a “Grant of Probate”.
In some cases, probate will not be required to deal with an individual’s Will and assets. If the person who died jointly owned assets, these will automatically be passed on to the other surviving party, requiring no intervention from an executor. If the individual only had savings or premium bonds accessible without a Grant of Probate, probate is not a necessary part of the executor process.
Probate can be a complicated process depending on the specifics of the deceased person’s assets and the specifications of their Will. The easiest way to completely understand how probate works is to break the process down into five steps:
Identification of assets
The first stage in probate is gathering information and documentation to identify the specific assets and liabilities the deceased held. This includes anything that contributes to the estate’s value, from property, possessions and investments to loans and other debts against their name. As part of this process, entitlement to the estate based on the Will should be confirmed.
Applying for probate and tax management
An inheritance tax return should be created and submitted, whether tax is likely to be due or not at this point in the probate process. If any tax is owed, this should be paid directly to HM Revenue & Customs as part of the continuing financial management of the estate. Once payment is arranged, the executor should apply for a Grant of Probate.
Management and liquidation of assets
Once a Grant of Probate has been approved, the executor can begin work on selling assets, also known as liquidation. Liabilities such as debts and loans should be paid at this point, and any income tax or capital gains taxes due on the estate should be paid directly to HMRC. This provides a clean slate for the inheritance process, with no unexpected costs, taxes, or bills at a later date.
Estate account documentation and approval
At this point, the executor or their representative ensures all estate accounts are appropriately documented, including payments outgoing and incoming from the estate. Once these calculations are complete, the final estate accounts are prepared for final approval and distribution.
Completion of the probate process
Assuming there are no additional requirements or disputes regarding the Will or estate, distribution can be completed according to the specifications of the Will. All assets are transferred into the name of beneficiaries, and the remaining funds are distributed as defined. If the Will is not specific about distribution, this will be carried out according to intestacy rules.
What do probate solicitors do?
Probate solicitors are legal professionals with specific expertise and training in handling probate cases. This requires a level of skill and precision in legal matters, accountancy and the administrative processes involved in probate. A probate solicitor can provide expert guidance, support and insight into Wills and intestate laws to ensure the inheritance process is as straightforward and convenient as possible for all parties involved.
Probate solicitors can be an invaluable source of support for executors and loved ones of the deceased. Their job is to understand the specific laws and what is considered valid as a part of the Will. Part of that role also means understanding and handling the taxing aspects of probate, including income tax, capital and gains tax and inheritance tax, to ensure all payments to HMRC are completed accurately and efficiently.
Depending on the complexity of a specific Will or individual case, the instruction of probate solicitors can be invaluable in ensuring all incoming funds and outgoing payments are kept track of. This includes debts, liquidated assets and more. Probate solicitors assist executors with ensuring everything is up to date, including preparing the comprehensive estate accounts ahead of inheritance distribution.
How much do probate solicitors charge?
Probate solicitors charge for their services in one of two ways. Either their costs are covered as a specific percentage of the value of the estate, or an hourly set fee is charged for access to legal expertise and guidance throughout probate.
Probate solicitors charging on a % basis
Typically, if a probate solicitor charges based on a percentage, this will be between 1-5% of the estate’s total value, plus VAT on top. For example, if the value of an estate is £100,000, a solicitor charging 2% would receive £2,000 plus VAT for a final total of £2,400. Percentages will vary based on specific probate solicitors, and some may also add a set fee on top for their expert services.
Probate solicitors charging on an hourly rate basis
The other alternative that many probate solicitors choose is an hourly rate charge. This reflects how different probate processes can be more involved than others, allowing access to expertise as and when needed.
While hourly rate services define a set amount of time for expert support, this does not mean you get less for your money than percentage-based fees. In many straightforward probate cases, an hourly rate can be the more affordable option.
At Elite Law Solicitors, our probate solicitors charge on an hourly rate basis for probate services, providing a high-quality and reliable service with transparent pricing throughout the process.
Technically, it is possible to complete probate without the use of a solicitor if you are the executor of a Will. This may be the case where tax management, estate accounts and inheritance are all straightforward with no complexities.
For example, if all assets are going to a single person as inheritance with no debts or financial issues. But for many executors, hiring a probate solicitor provides peace of mind and ensures complicated matters are handled and managed swiftly and professionally.
Instructing appropriately experienced probate solicitors saves both time and effort by allowing a qualified legal specialist to deal with the ins and outs of the estate and processes surrounding probate. Some situations in which you may want to instruct probate solicitors include:
Circumstances where claims are made for an inheritance, or the validity of the Will, is questioned
Any complex asset arrangements, such as those currently held in trust or those required to be placed into trust
Situations where the estate holds debts, bankruptcies, or insolvency beyond the value of the assets themselves
Inheritable assets outside the UK or specific instances where the deceased lived or died outside of their home country
While this is not an exhaustive list of the reasons it may be worth instructing probate solicitors, it does cover some of the specific circumstances where an executor would benefit from expert legal support.
You may also choose to hire probate solicitors if you do not have the opportunity or means to complete all probate processes yourself within a specific time frame for any reason.
What information do probate solicitors require?
The deceased’s estate is made up of all assets and possessions that belonged solely to them at the death of death, any proceeds of insurance policies (that are not written in trust) and any gifts that have been made within the previous seven years prior to death.
Any jointly owned assets will be valued at the date of death and the percentage owned will be added to the estate value, although the asset will pass to the joint owner regardless of the Will.
Probate solicitors are required to submit accurate accounts to HMRC, which they will then analyse. Things that need to be accounted for include any executor expenses, such as travel, postage and probate fees, death certificates and bank charges. The executor or administrator should keep a record of any expenses incurred. The deceased’s assets and liabilities must also be accounted for.
Details of assets during the probate process
A number of steps need to be taken in relation to the assets and possessions that belonged solely to the Deceased at the death of death.
Bank and Building Society
Your probate solicitors should ask them to stop all standing orders and direct debits, and send a letter of final account statements.
Your probate solicitors will write to any employer requesting final assessment of outstanding wages.
State pension, benefits or tax credits
Your probate solicitors will notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of the death and claim any outstanding unclaimed benefits prior to death. With regards to pensions, you should ensure that any payments from DWP are stopped using BD8 form.
Private pensions and life insurance
All policy providers will need to be contacted, requesting a calculation of the policy amount.
Premium bonds and National Savings Certificates
Your probate solicitors will require a NS&I certificate. If you are unable to locate this then there is a service to trace the certificate. These can be left in place for up to a year after death or you can cash them in.
If the deceased holds any shares then the share certificates will need to be found and holding will need to be confirmed. The value of the shares should be ascertained by a broker.
The deceased’s vehicle will need to be valued.
All the items in the house will need to be valued by a professional if they have a greater value than £500.
Details of liabilities during the probate process
Probate liabilities are any payments which need to be made from the estate. When the estate is being valued during the probate process, the values of any liabilities will need to be deducted from the total value of the assets.
Your probate solicitors will write to all the providers and request a final account statement.
If the deceased lived alone and their property is empty, there will be an exemption for Council Tax from the date of death up to 6 months after the Grant of Probate is issued.
Your probate solicitors need to write to the mortgage lender, with details of the account and the deceased. The mortgage company may want the mortgage payments to continue but mortgage will need to be settled according to the terms.
Credit card bills and loans
Your probate solicitors will require a final statement of the deceased’s account for any loans outstanding so that these can be settled.
All funeral costs should be borne by the deceased. Banks will usually release funds to pay for the funeral expenses.
Once the grant has been obtained, your probate solicitors can:
Collect all the assets
Advertise for any unknown beneficiaries or creditors
Pay the outstanding debts
Distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries
How long do probate solicitors take to complete the process?
Probate is a complex and multi-faceted process, which can directly affect the length of time taken to reach the final distribution of inheritance.
On average, nine to twelve months is how long it takes qualified probate solicitors to complete the entire process from start to finish. This includes time preparing for your application, all administration, and final inheritance distribution to complete the probate process.
If a Will is present, the executor must first apply for a Grant of Probate, which can take up to 8 weeks to gather information for. Once the application is sent off, up to a further eight weeks of wait time will be required before the grant is received. From there, the complexity of the estate and any other complications factor into how quickly and easily probate can be completed by a probate solicitor.
The average probate timeline is as follows:
1-8 weeks: preparation for grant of probate application
3-8 weeks: probate application pending approval
3-6 months: management of the estate and administration process
1-6 months: distribution of inheritance and end of probate
How long does it take to receive an inheritance after probate is granted?
Anything from six to nine months is the average time for the estate to be distributed once probate has been granted. This timescale varies greatly depending on the estate itself. A straightforward probate process may take less time, while an extensive and complex process will likely take longer.
How our probate solicitors can help
Our probate solicitors are experienced in offering a sensitive, understanding and knowledgeable service at what we know can be a very distressing and emotive time. We have a thorough knowledge of administration of estates and of the probate process and can be relied upon to guide you carefully through each step of these legal processes.
If you choose to instruct us, our expert probate solicitors will:
Take you, as the executor / administrator, through the legal meaning of the deceased’s Will
Apply for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
– Complete the Probate Application
– Complete the Inheritance Tax forms
– Send to the Probate Registry
– Help you swear an oath that the accounts are accurate
Write letters to all involved to close accounts, such as banks and utilities companies
Collect the estate amount
Pay any debts outstanding, such as mortgages, loans and credit cards
Claim any insurance policies taken out by the deceased
Make final valuation of the estate less of taxes and debts
Establish any Will Trusts setup in the Will through relevant appointments
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Chartered Legal Executive
“Meg Wilton has been dealing with my late father’s estate and probate. I recommend her services whole heartedly. She has been sensitive, efficient and impossible to fault. Plus the costs were far far lower than some others quoted. I’m a busy GP and it has made life a lot easier. Highly recommended.”
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