We understand that administering an estate after the death of a loved one can be a stressful, confusing and time-consuming process during a difficult time.
Meaby&Co provides a sensitive, high-quality and personal service backed by more than a century of experience and expertise of handling Probate for our clients.
Our Private Client team are experts at taking the pressure away from our clients and handling the process from start to finish.
We are renowned for being easy to talk to and skilled at explaining complicated law in an easy-to-understand way so that our clients are able to make the best possible decisions.
How does Probate work?
‘Probate’ is the process of dealing with the affairs of somebody that has died. If somebody dies leaving a Will, the Executor appointed in the Will must apply to the Probate Registry for a ‘Grant of Probate’; this is effectively an Order from the Court recognising that they are authorised to administer the deceased’s affairs. Where somebody dies without a Will, known as intestate, a close family member must apply to the Probate Registry for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ which constitutes their authority to administer the deceased’s affairs.
Before they can obtain the Grant of Probate, or Letters of Administration, the Executor (Will) or Administrator (no Will) must establish the exact value of the deceased’s estate and calculate whether or not any Inheritance Tax is payable. Any tax (or a proportion of it) must be paid before they can apply for the Grant.
Once they have the Grant, the Executor or Administrator can then close the deceased’s accounts, sell their property and distribute the proceeds in accordance with their will, or otherwise in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy.
We can discuss your particular circumstances with you and explain in simple terms what the process entails and what you need to do at each stage.
People often contact us with the following particular enquiries:
What should I do first?
The first thing the family must do is register the death. This should be done at the local Registry Office within the borough or county in which the person died. You will be given a Death Certificate (and you should usually ask for a few copies of this) together with a form which will permit the funeral directors to make arrangements for the funeral.
What Does the Executor/ Administrator do?
Executors and Administrators have a number of legal duties. These can seem daunting and onerous but Meaby&Co solicitors are here to assist you at each step, and to advise you of your obligations. The duties include:
- Establishing the extent of the deceased’s estate. This will require contact with every organisation with whom the deceased has had dealings including insurance companies, banks, building societies, employers, share registrars and the Land Registry. Account closure forms, tax deduction certificates and probate figures must be obtained from the various organisations.
- Preparing an Inheritance Tax Account for the Inland Revenue, confirming if any tax is payable. If the estate has a value of greater than £325,000 (subject to any allowances or exemptions) tax will be payable at 40% on everything over £325,000. All assets must be declared to the Inland Revenue.
- Paying the Tax. If tax is payable some if not all of it must be paid within 6 months of the end of the month of the date of death. We can advise you on the process for accessing funds to discharge the tax liability or indeed to address the tax where there are insufficient ready funds to do so.
- Preparing an application to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate (if there is a will) or a Grant of Administration (where there is no will).
- Closing the deceased’s accounts and selling any relevant property so that the estate can be distributed between the beneficiaries.
- Paying any Capital Gains Tax that arises out of the sale of the estate assets.
- Preparing a set of estate accounts that shows how the estate was administered.
Who is entitled to the Estate?
If there is a will, the beneficiaries are those people mentioned in the will. If there is no will, the beneficiaries will be dictated by law. Usually these will be the deceased’s spouse, children and parents, but the exact identities and the amounts that they will receive will be decided by the ‘Rules of Intestacy’. We can advise you on these and assist you in ensuring that the administrator transfers the estate to the correct beneficiaries in the correct way.
What is Inheritance Tax?
Inheritance Tax can be quite a complicated area. It is currently payable at a rate of 40% on any estate worth more than the current nil-rate-band (NRB) of £325,000, however a number of exemptions and reliefs may apply. The rate may be reduced to 36% if 10% or more of the taxable estate is left to a charity. If an estate is worth less than the nil rate band, no tax is payable.
What Should I do in the Event of an Argument Over the Deceased’s Assets?
Contentious Probate is a growing area. People are increasingly contesting wills and bequests, and it is essential that if a dispute arises you establish your rights and entitlements. Our Private Client team can work together with our litigation team to ensure that where a dispute arises you are fully armed to reach a resolution, preferably without the need to resort to the court.