Full Estate Administration Probate
Solicitors based in Crownhill Plymouth
Our specialist probate solicitors can help with anything from applying for a Grant of Probate and dealing with Inheritance tax through to dealing with all aspects of the estate. We can help whether there was a Will left or not.
When an individual dies in England or Wales
The bank accounts, property, personal effects and investments they leave behind are generally known as their Estate. Depending on the type and value of the assets they owned, it may be necessary to obtain legal authority from the Court to be able to deal with the Estate.
This legal authority is called a Grant of Representation and will allow whoever is dealing with the Estate to close bank accounts, cash in investments and sell or transfer property. However, the Grant of Representation itself can take different forms, depending on whether an individual dies with or without a Will, and who is applying for the Grant.
Grant of Probate
A Grant of Probate will only be issued to the Executor/s named in the Will.
An Executor has the legal power to deal with the deceased’s affairs, and can start to cash in assets and transfer them to the beneficiaries named in your Will. However, some financial institutions may require the Executor to obtain a Grant of Probate from the Court before releasing the funds or closing the account.
The Grant of Probate is legal confirmation from the Court that the Will is valid. Once the Grant has been issued, it means that the Will has been officially registered and the Executors named in the Will are the only ones with authority to deal with the Estate.
The financial institutions that require a Grant of Probate want to be sure that the Will is valid and the named Executors are the correct people responsible for dealing with the Estate, before any funds are released to them.
Letters of Administration
Letters of Administration are similar to a Grant of Probate, but are issued instead to the next of kin of an individual who dies without a Will.If your loved one did not make a Will, this means they have not appointed a specific person as their Executor to close their bank accounts, cash in any investments and so on. The authority to do this is not automatic, and it may be that their family would have to apply to the Court for Letters of Administration to confirm their entitlement to manage the Estate, if there are certain financial institutions that require this.
This can cause problems if, for example, family members cannot agree which of them would be the best person to deal with the Estate. Where there are such disputes, it is common for the Court to get involved, and the time and financial costs involved in this can be particularly detrimental. It is therefore always advisable to make a Will.
Letters of Administration might also be issued where there is a valid Will, but the Executor named in the Will is not applying for a Grant of Probate.
This could be because they do not want to act as Executor, are no longer capable of doing so, or perhaps they have already passed away. Where this is the case, it is common for one of the main beneficiaries in the Will to apply for Letters of Administration instead.
How Long Do Most Estates Take to Settle?
It is often the case that an Estate can be finalised within 6 months of the date of death where, for example, there is no property to be sold and no other complicating factors.
At the start of an Estate administration, it is always hoped that all matters will be finalised within a year. One reason for this is that the Estate will be required to pay interest on pecuniary legacies (sums of money) that are paid to Beneficiaries after this time.
Our Probate Solicitors can estimate how long the administration of the Estate will take and provide this information in the initial stages, but this is very much subject to change as we deal with third parties such as the Probate Court and HMRC regarding Inheritance Tax matters.
Other circumstances can arise during the course of the administration which may delay matters. On the other hand, hurdles that have been anticipated may not in actual fact cause problems, meaning the administration is completed far quicker than expected.
Timescales can also be affected by two particular factors - (1) the assets in the Estate, and (2) how they are being passed down. These factors can impact on the administration in the following ways:
The Assets in the Estate
Where a deceased person has liquid assets only (such as bank accounts) and the Estate is not subject to Inheritance Tax then it would be reasonable to suppose that the administration could be concluded within a six month period.
This timescale will increase slightly where the Estate is subject to Inheritance Tax. This is because a tax return must be sent to HM Revenue and Customs and any tax must be paid before the Grant of Probate can be issued by the Court. The Grant of Probate is a legal document which grants authority to deal with a deceased person’s money, assets and property, and this is required before any assets can be realised.
Where the deceased owned a property in their sole name, and this is to be sold, the timescale for administration of the Estate is often determined by how long it takes to sell the property. It would be unusual for an Estate containing a property to be completed in less than 12 months.The timescale can be extended significantly where the assets are more complicated. For example if the deceased had foreign assets or there are Trust interests involved, it can be impossible to estimate how long the administration will take. In these circumstances it may be necessary to instruct country-specific Lawyers or liaise with Trustees.
How the Assets are Being Passed Down
This may simply be a matter of whether the deceased had a valid Will in place when they died or whether they died without a valid Will (known as dying ‘intestate’). However, even with a valid Will it may be more complicated if any Beneficiaries have died or are missing.
If The is a Will
As a general rule, an Estate with a valid Will where all Beneficiaries and Executors can be easily identified and are over the age of 18 should not lead to any undue delays. In these circumstances, if there are no other delays then the Estate could be distributed once the assets are realised and all tax and other administration matters are resolved.
Where there are Beneficiaries under the age of 18 or assets are being put into a Trust, it may be necessary for Trustees to be appointed and Trust accounts to be set up. There are obligations on Trustees to ensure that assets are properly invested and that they act in the best interests of the Beneficiaries. In light of this, the Trustees may require financial advice as to the best course of action to take.
If There Is No Will
If the deceased didn’t have a valid Will, their Estate will be passed down in accordance with inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy. These rules place individuals in order of priority, based on their relationship to the deceased.
It will often be necessary to locate Beneficiaries and prove their relationship to the deceased, and therefore their entitlement to the Estate. This is done with birth, marriage and death certificates going back as far as is necessary to show the common ancestry of the deceased and the Beneficiary.
This can be a time consuming exercise. It may be that some branches of the family are unknown or have become estranged. Tracing agents may need to be instructed to find Beneficiaries, or it may be that only a partial family history can be provided and further investigation is required. Depending on the size of the family and their locations, this can be straightforward or very complicated.
With so many factors affecting how long it takes to settle an Estate, it is impossible to guarantee exactly how long it will take. Our Probate Solicitors always work to settle the Estate as quickly as possible.