When a person dies (with or without a Will), somebody must deal with their estate by collecting assets, paying any debts and tax liabilities, and distributing the estate to beneficiaries. In almost all cases, one must acquire legal authority from the Courts to access these assets in a procedure known as the grant of representation. This can be a complex and difficult procedure, as it is just one of multiple matters which need to be addressed. As Wills and probate solicitors, we can assist in all aspects of this work.
What is Probate?
The term probate refers to a ‘grant of probate’ or ‘grant of letters of administration’ that is issued to those entitled under law to deal with the estate. Persons entitled to deal with the estate are known as executors (if named in a Will) or administrators (if there is no Will). They are collectively termed ‘personal representatives’ (PRs) and it is the responsibility of PRs to administer the estate correctly and report assets and liabilities accurately. If the PRs fail to do this, they can be held to account by the probate court and deemed personally liable for any wrongdoing. Therefore, the task of acting as a PR should not be taken lightly and we strongly recommend seeking professional advice. By acting on the advice of a qualified probate solicitor, PRs can ensure that all matters are appropriately considered.
How is Probate obtained?
There are various steps that must be completed before the grant of representation can be acquired. These matters, which include calculating the inheritance tax (IHT) position and dealing with various probate court and HM revenue and customs papers, can be quite complicated. Asset holders such as banks, share registrars, life policy providers and pension companies must all be contacted before any papers can be drafted. This can be a rather complex process, but our probate solicitors are at hand to guide you through it.
Understanding IHT and probate
IHT is usually only payable if the estate of the deceased (including any gifts made with the seven years preceding death) exceeds the IHT nil rate threshold, which is currently £325,000 and potentially up to £650,000 for married couples. If tax is payable, it must be paid within six months of death to avoid incurring penalties and interest charges.
Our probate solicitors have plentiful experience of dealing with estates of all sizes and can ensure that IHT is calculated correctly, including preparing applications for various IHT exemptions. There are numerous relief opportunities that can be utilised for the mitigation of tax liability. These reliefs are often time-critical, so it is important to obtain professional advice from a probate solicitor as soon as practically possible. This also applies to other taxes which may become payable, such as capital gains tax and income tax, and we can advise you on the implications of these taxes so that the estate is administered in the most tax-efficient manner.
We can also assist in making a claim against the estate on the basis that you feel you should have received something from the estate, or an amount greater than what you did receive. Making such claims can be difficult and procedural, so we can advise you as to whether you have a basis to make a valid claim or whether a Will can be challenged on any other grounds.
At I Will Solicitors, we specialise in probate and estate administration. Unlike many other practices, this is our main area of expertise and our probate solicitors boast many years of experience, in addition to membership of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), the principal worldwide body for estate practitioners. The inclusion of STEP in our credentials distinguishes us as highly qualified, experienced probate solicitors capable of processing any complicated probate queries.