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Probate; the Basics

We have over 35 years of experience in handling a wide variety of estates. From the small and simple (including one house and a bank account) to the large and more complex (including the sale of foreign assets and the succession of multiple businesses). Over the years, we have found that our top 3 priorities have always served us well.

Our top 3 priorities are:-

Veta Law Submark Being sensitive to our clients, who are often going through a particularly difficult and emotional period in their life. Your case will be run on a day to day basis by Louise or Lauren. You will be able to contact us directly throughout.

Veta Law Submark Being efficient in progressing every case. We are acutely aware that a speedy conclusion to this type of work helps to bring closure for our clients and their families.

Veta Law Submark Being reasonably priced. We do not charge based on a percentage of the assets in the estate, as some solicitors do. We agree our charging format with clients at the outset. We keep our costs clear and fair, and our clients fully informed throughout.

Helpful Steps To Take Shortly After Someone Has Died

 

Veta Law Submark Make an appointment at the local death registry, to register the death and obtain a few copies of the death certificate.

Veta Law Submark Locate the original will. First, you should check who are the executors and any funeral wishes.

Veta Law Submark Is there an unoccupied property? If so, notify the contents and buildings insurers immediately to maintain validity of the insurance on an unoccupied property. The insurers often have specific requirements you must fulfil.

Veta Law Submark Notify the Council if the property is unoccupied. Most councils will then provide a 6 months waiver on council tax payments.

Veta Law Submark If the property is unoccupied, speak to the Post Office about redirecting the post. This will avoid post being left unattended to and to stop it piling up by the door alerting others that the property is empty.

As we now live abroad, there was no-one handy to deal with my mother’s estate. Thank you for handling everything so efficiently, it was such a sad time and having your support was much appreciated.

Ms Cooper, Madrid

Veta Law’s View

Being the executor of an estate is a serious legal responsibility. If matters are dealt with wrongly, you could be sued and find yourself personally liable to repay the estate. It is important after someone has died to use the first 6 months wisely. That is because Inheritance Tax becomes due for payment 6 months after death. After 6 months, interest will accrue on a daily basis on the amount of unpaid tax. It is therefore essential that you establish, without delay, if any Inheritance Tax is due and how much. Obtaining the values of assets and liabilities in an estate, in order to calculate and pay Inheritance Tax is sometimes more complicated and time consuming than you would expect.

Depending upon the complexity of the estate and the amount of knowledge and time you have available to deal with it, you may wish to seek professional help. We recommend you use a solicitor as they will be regulated, qualified and insured. Choose a solicitor who specialises in probate work on a day to day basis as they should have the knowledge and systems in place to advise you fully.

Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need professional help with a probate?

You may need professional help, or you may not. Professional help will be an additional cost to the estate, that’s the downside. The upside being that handing it over to a professional should free you from the legal responsibilities involved in sorting it out. Your need for professional help will depend upon 3 factors:

1. The complexity of the estate;
2. Your knowledge and capability to sort it out;
3. The time you have available to deal with it. To help you reach a decision, we have outlined below a general guide as to what most probates involve.

However, if you aren’t sure, please give us a call as we would be happy to give you some realistic guidance on your particular situation.

What does probate involve?

Here’s a general guide as to what most probates involve. (However, please note this may not cover everything required in your specific case).

After someone dies, if you are named as an executor in a Will, you are legally responsible (jointly with the other executors), to take the following steps:

Veta Law Submark To maintain appropriate insurance cover and keep safe and secure all estate assets.

Veta Law Submark To obtain the original and last Will, and to fulfil the terms of it in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.

Veta Law Submark To value the deceased’s assets and liabilities at the date of death.

Veta Law Submark To report these values to the Probate Registry and/or HMRC (using HMRC forms IHT205 or IHT400). Links to these forms can be found in the More Help About Probate section below.

Veta Law Submark To obtain the Grant of Probate, if required, to sell a property or encash bank accounts and investments etc.

Veta Law Submark To pay any inheritance tax that is due within 6 months of death. Sometimes payment by instalments is available.

Veta Law Submark To advertise for claims against the estate – see the More Help About Probate section below.

Veta Law Submark To pay the debts of the estate (if any).

Veta Law Submark To produce Estate Accounts detailing all movements from the date of death until the date of distribution. It is best to get written approval of the Estate Accounts prior to any distributions being made.

Veta Law Submark To distribute the balance of the estate in accordance with the will. It is advisable to get signed receipts from the beneficiaries.

What is a grant of probate?
It is a legal document which is created at your local Probate Registry. This gives the executors legal authority to manage the assets and liabilities of the estate. A grant of probate will be needed if you are required to sell a property. With savings and investments, the requirements of each financial institution will differ, as to when a grant of probate is required. You will need to check the requirements of each of them individually.
Can you change the terms of a Will after someone has died?
Yes, but it must be completed within 2 years of the date of death to be effective for tax purposes. It is normally carried out using a Deed of Variation. We recommend you get professional help beforehand, to ensure that any changes you make will be legally binding. We regularly prepare Deeds of Variation for our clients and so please get in touch if you would like some advice.

VETA LAW CASE

Protecting a Share of Your Estate for a Child who struggles to Manage Money

We were instructed by brother and sister, Frank and Anne, whose elderly father had recently died and named them as his executors. They asked us to handle the estate. Frank and Anne explained that their father had 3 adult children, namely Frank, Anne and Tom. Their father wanted his 3 children to benefit from his estate. Frank and Anne worked and were financially independent from their father.

Tom still lived at home with his father. Tom had never married or had a permanent job. Tom received state benefits and had borrowed money from his father whilst he was alive. Tom enjoyed gambling and was currently very poorly with cancer. Their father had left his entire estate into trust in his Will. The beneficiaries of the trust were Frank, Anne and Tom. The trustees were Frank and Anne. Their father had left a letter of wishes explaining why he had done this and how he wanted his estate to be used for the benefit of his children. As executors and trustees, Frank and Anne wanted us to achieve a number of objectives in dealing with their father’s estate:-

1. To allow Tom to remain living in their late father’s house. However, if Tom died before them, they wanted to be able to sell the property and split the proceeds equally between them. This is what their father had wanted to happen.
2. To write off the loans their father had made to Tom, so Tom did not have to repay them.
3. To divide the bulk of their father’s cash and investments between Frank and Anne. As the house was the largest asset in the estate, their father wanted Frank and Anne to benefit from his other assets soon after his death. Some funds were retained in trust for repairs and maintenance of the property (see below).
4. To complete all the necessary paperwork to obtain the grant of probate and to settle all calculations and payments due to HMRC. We transferred the property into the names of the Trustees, Frank and Anne.

Read more...

This meant that the property was owned and controlled by them. We completed a deed which gave Tom the right to occupy their late father’s home for the rest of his life, to give him security. However, as Tom didn’t own the property, he could not sell or sub-let it, or use it as collateral for a loan. Frank and Anne (as trustees) were responsible for maintenance and repairs at the property. Tom was still entitled to receive the same level of state benefits.

Our clients were pleased to find a solution which met their family’s needs. Once all the legal documents were finalised, they said they felt relieved that HMRC had been dealt with and Tom was secure and comfortable in his own home.

Note: This section gives you real examples of cases we have dealt with. Our clients gave us their prior consent for this purpose, and names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

My father’s financial affairs were complicated and disorganised to say the least…..thank you for taking this off our hands.

Mr Smith, Altrincham

More Help About Probate

Here are links to the HMRC forms you are required to complete following a death. You will need to decide if form IHT205 or form IHT400 is required in your case.

Personal Liability for Executors and Administrators

The terms executor or administrator refer to the individual(s) responsible for administering an estate. These people are called executors when the deceased left a valid will or administrator when there’s no valid will and the estate will therefore need to be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules found in the Administration of Estates Act 1925.

The term personal representatives used to describe either executors or administrators. So if you find yourself in a position as either the executor or administrator of an estate, please be aware that you are personally liable for your actions (or inaction) in carrying out your duties in this role. Potentially, this means that you could be sued and/or required to pay out of your own pocket, into the estate, for any losses which you may have caused. It doesn’t matter if this was done intentionally or not, you are still at risk.

Protection for Executors and Administrators

To protect yourself, we recommend that you serve notice under section 27 Trustee Act 1925. The notice is placed in an official publication called the London Gazette and also a local newspaper which is circulated in the area where the deceased lived.

If notice is served then the Executor or Administrator is protected from any claims against the estate, of which they are not aware. The notice needs to state that the personal representatives are going to distribute the estate at least 2 months after the notice, unless anyone who believes they have a claim against the estate notifies the Executor or Administrator within that 2 month period. The notice will ask for any claim whether it is for a beneficial interest or an alleged debt owed by the deceased. If a potential claimant then comes forward after the 2 months has elapsed, then the personal representative is not liable for that claim. (Obviously, this does not apply to anything known to the personal representative before service of the notice).

This is one way to protect Executors and Administrators from claims after they have distributed the assets of the estate. If you have concerns about your role and responsibilities as an Executor or Administrator please do not hesitate to get in touch.

About Us

At Veta Law we are happy to answer all your questions about wills, tax planning, trusts, powers of attorney and probate. We offer a free initial call with one of our experts, without obligation, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

FIND OUT MORE

Contact Us Today

01695 424 611

contactus@vetalaw.com

About Us

At Veta Law we are happy to answer all your questions about wills, tax planning, trusts, powers of attorney and probate. We offer a free initial call with one of our experts, without obligation, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

FIND OUT MORE

Contact Us Today

01695 424 611

contactus@vetalaw.com