Whenever a person dies, his or her estate needs to be dealt with, either in accordance with any Will or under the Intestacy Rules – a statutory “pecking order” which determines which relatives receive what.
Estate administration involves the entire process, from arranging and funding the funeral, ascertaining and gathering in the assets, ascertaining and settling the deceased’s debts, cancelling utilities, dealing with HMRC and DWP, clearing the deceased’s home, selling real property, and distributing the remaining assets. Legal work such as property registration, conveyancing, trustee meetings, trust operation, instruments of variation and tax calculations may all be required.
One of the early phases of this process is what is popularly termed ‘probate’ – technically the application to the Probate Registry for authorisation to deal with a deceased’s estate.
Authorisation is acquired by the deceased’s personal representatives obtaining a grant of representation.
There are two main types:
- A grant of probate, if there is a Will appointing one or more executor, or
- A grant of letters of administration where no Will can be found and authority is sought by the person first entitled to the estate under the Intestacy Rules.
In either instance, applying for a grant of representation involves the personal representatives valuing the estate (including instructing professionals if required), completing HMRC forms, calculating the inheritance tax due, and paying that tax within 6 months of death before the grant is issued. Personal representatives may find themselves personally liable:
- If the tax forms are completed incorrectly;
- If they swear the oath required to support the application for the grant knowing that there are inaccuracies or omissions; or
- If they disburse the estate without having correctly identified potential creditors first
Given the legal and administrative complexities, costs, time and risks involved in the estate administration process, many families find the experience both stressful and overwhelming at an already difficult and upsetting time.
In association with a leading regional law firm, we have developed a highly cost-effective estate administration service personalised to your needs which encompasses:
- Legal triage: compassionate, practical and timely advice to the recently bereaved on what to do when a loved one has died, including how to obtain death certificates and arrange the funeral;
- Advice on the effect of the deceased’s Will, whether or not it was drafted by us;
- Advice on the estate administration process and the options for dealing with it on a DIY, part DIY or fully-serviced basis;
- Assistance and administrative support on the ascertainment of the deceased’s estate and the information required to support an application for a grant of representation;
- Identification and engagement of the appropriate specialist support, whether RICS valuers, auctioneers, house clearance specialists, estate agents, tax accountants, financial advisers or probate lawyers;
- Liaison with professionals throughout the estate administration process;
- Keeping you informed and involving you in key decision-making;
- Ensuring the estate administration is completed in a timely and efficient manner.
In certain circumstances it may be possible to vary not just an existing Will but also an intestacy provided legal advice is sought on a timely basis: do get in touch if you would like to discuss the options available.