We are highly experienced in dealing with all aspects of probate and estate administration. Our objective is to make this difficult time easier for you.
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:-
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.
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.
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
Make an appointment at the local death registry, to register the death and obtain a few copies of the death certificate.
Locate the original will. First, you should check who are the executors and any funeral wishes.
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.
Notify the Council if the property is unoccupied. Most councils will then provide a 6 months waiver on council tax payments.
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.
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.
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:
To maintain appropriate insurance cover and keep safe and secure all estate assets.
To obtain the original and last Will, and to fulfil the terms of it in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.
To value the deceased’s assets and liabilities at the date of death.
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.
To obtain the Grant of Probate, if required, to sell a property or encash bank accounts and investments etc.
To pay any inheritance tax that is due within 6 months of death. Sometimes payment by instalments is available.
To advertise for claims against the estate – see the More Help About Probate section below.
To pay the debts of the estate (if any).
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.
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?
Can you change the terms of a Will after someone has died?
What are the costs of probate?
Free initial discussion
At Veta Law we are here to help you protect your interests. We will efficiently cut through the legal paperwork in order to give you peace of mind. Call us for a free and no obligation initial discussion on 01625 810 300 or complete the online enquiry form on the Contact Us page to allow a solicitor at Veta Law to contact you.
All our probate cases are managed by experienced solicitors and supervised by a STEP qualified solicitor, which means that they have taken extra exams to become an expert in wills, trusts and estates.
We anticipate that a probate matter could take between 10-15 hours work at £220 per hour. Therefore, total costs would range from £2,200 to £3,300 plus VAT and Disbursements. In this case, our services would normally include:-
• Identifying who is entitled to take out the Grant
• Preparing the Oath for Executors for you to swear
• Preparing HM Revenue & Customs form IHT 205, based on information and valuations provided by you
• Submitting the Oath and form IHT 205 to the Probate Registry to obtain the Grant
• Collecting in the assets of the estate
• Distributing the estate according to the Will
• Preparing Estate Accounts
It does not include dealing with the transfer of land or property to beneficiaries of the estate or the sale of land or property in the estate.
Our costs are likely to be higher than the range shown above if there is no will or if there is inheritance tax to pay. Similarly, if there are assets overseas or if the estate includes any shareholdings. These additional costs would vary depending upon the circumstances. We are happy to provide a more accurate estimate once we have more information about the estate.
If the estate is clear in terms of the assets, liabilities and its distribution, we should be able to charge a fixed fee for dealing with the estate, which we can tell you at the outset. If the affairs of the deceased are more complicated or uncertain, we are happy to help. However, as the work involved requires further investigation we would charge you on a time spent basis at the hourly rate of the solicitor involved. Our hourly rates range between £220 – £120/hour depending upon the level of expertise required. We always confirm the basis of our costs in writing at the outset.
Disbursements are costs payable to third parties in relation to your matter, such as probate registry fees.
To make the process more efficient, we arrange the payment of disbursements on your behalf and add them to our invoice.
Disbursements which are normally payable include:-
Probate registry fee – £155 (no VAT)
Additional copies of the Grant of Probate will cost 50p (no VAT) and you will usually need 1 copy for every asset.
Swearing of the oath (for each executor) – £7 (no VAT)
Advert in the London Gazette – Protects the executors against claims from unknown creditors – £118.65 plus VAT
Advert in a Local Newspaper – Protects the executors against claims from unknown creditors – £185 plus VAT
Disbursements are set by outside organisations and we have no control over their charges or when they might decide to change them.
On average, it is likely to take 2- 3 months to obtain the Grant of Probate and a further 2-3 months to collect in the assets and distribute the estate. Albeit timescales can vary, for example, if the estate includes a property which needs to be sold, then timescales will vary, depending upon how quickly the property sale takes to complete. We can give you a clearer indication of timescale once we know the assets involved.
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.
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.