Probate and Estate Administration
The death of a family member or friend is one of life’s most stressful events. Having to deal with their estate as well can seem overwhelming. During such difficult times, our team are here to guide you and help relieve the burden.
Winding up the estate can appear somewhat daunting, particularly if this is not something you have encountered before and especially where there are high value and complex assets and issues involved. Problems can arise if the estate administration is not handled properly and in a sensitive or timely way.
We can undertake the entire day-to-day administration of the estate as well as giving specialist advice or limit our involvement to specific areas. We are happy to discuss with you on a no obligation basis how we may best assist you on your matter.
Our probate and estate administration lawyers act for clients across the country and internationally from our offices in London, Cambridge, Reading or Southampton. We can offer a convenient, high quality service in person, over the phone, via email and through video conferencing, fitting around your schedule and commitments.
Our team members are frequently appointed as executors and trustees, thereby offering the family a professional, dispassionate view where appropriate.
We are also highly skilled in dealing with contentious probate and inheritance disputes.
To discuss how our probate and estate administration solicitors can help you, please get in touch.
We have significant expertise in dealing with both UK and international estates, with particular knowledge around high value and complex estates, including those with business interests, international assets, family companies, valuable chattels, and agricultural and heritage property.
Our probate solicitors can advise on:
- Offering assets in lieu of inheritance tax;
- Claims for inheritance tax exemptions and reliefs for business, agriculturaland heritage property;
- Inheritance tax including completion of the inheritance tax account, calculation of the inheritance tax liability and advising on the transferable inheritance tax nil rate bands;
- Insurance policy trusts that mature on death;
- International estatescontaining assets in multiple jurisdictions and involving cross-border succession law and international estate tax issues;
- Interpretation of the will and devolution of the estate;
- Intestate estates;
- Jointly owned property;
- Management of the estate administration;
- Obtaining letters of administration or grants of probate;
- Post-death rearrangements and tax planning including Deeds of Variation;
- Preparation of administration period income tax and capital gains tax returns;
- Preparation of estate accounts
- Re-sealing Colonial Grants and applications for English grants of representation of foreign wills;
- Rights of the beneficiaries;
- Role of an executor and administrator and their duties, powers and liabilities.
Why choose BDB Pitmans for probate and estate administration?
- 1 Independently accredited specialist expertise in probate and administration of estates
Many of our team are members of the Society of Estate and Trust Practitioners (STEP), the global professional body, comprising lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and other practitioners that help families plan for their futures. Our team is ranked by Chambers and Partners for Private Wealth Law and by the Legal 500 for Personal Tax, Trusts and Probate.
- 2 Decades of combined specialist probate and estate administration experience
No matter how complicated or niche the matters involved in an estate, our team have the expertise and experience to make sure every stage of the administration is handled correctly.
- 3 A tailored approach to match your specific requirements
Every estate and every situation is different, so our probate and estate administration team will always take the time to fully understand your requirements and any concerns. We can then ensure all of the issues involved are properly handled with tailored support through every stage of administering an estate.
Our probate and estate administration fees
We offer a bespoke probate and estate administration service with particular expertise in high value and complex assets and complicated circumstances. As such, all of our fees are individually tailored to our clients’ requirements.
When you work with our probate and estate administration solicitors, we will be happy to offer a fixed cost initial consultation, after which we will provide a realistic estimate of our fees.
Find out more about typical legal costs for uncontested probate.
We answer your questions about probate and estate administration
- 1 What are the stages of estate administration?
Strictly speaking, probate means obtaining the grant of probate which enables an estate to be administered. The administration of an estate is a much wider task and effectively involves closing down a deceased’s financial affairs. There are various steps that must be taken to administer an estate. The main stages are:
- Registering the death – you can find out how to do this here.
- Locating the Will – this will establish who is responsible for administering the estate: the executors named in the Will or those entitled to the estate by Will or under the intestacy rules, known as administrators. Executors and administrators are together called personal representatives.
- Notifying other relevant parties – e.g. the trustees of any trusts where the deceased was a settlor or beneficiary.
- Identifying the estate assets – establishing exactly what assets are included in the deceased’s estate.
- Valuing the estate – determining the value of all of the assets in the estate – this may require you to have valuations carried out e.g. for the deceased’s home.
- Establishing any liabilities of the deceased – e.g. mortgages, loans and any other debts. It may be necessary to advertise for unknown creditors depending on the circumstances.
- Preparing the inheritance tax return or statement of assets and liabilities – this provides HMRC with the details of the estate’s value.
- Calculating the inheritance tax liability – the personal representatives of the estate are responsible for ensuring any inheritance tax due on the estate is paid when it falls due.
- Applying for grant of probate / letters of administration– this gives the personal representatives of the estate the authority to collect the deceased’s assets, pay any liabilities owed and distribute the remainder of the estate to any beneficiaries. The grant can only be applied for once the inheritance tax account filed with HMRC and a payment on account of the inheritance tax due made.
- Collecting the estate assets – this includes closing bank accounts and realising other assets
- Paying the estate liabilities and administration expenses – the personal representatives of the estate will need to pay off all debts owed by the deceased before any bequests can be paid out.
- Distributing specific legacies – once all liabilities are paid, the personal representatives distribute any specific legacies made by the deceased according to the will (or the rules of intestacy if there was no will).
- Preparing estate accounts – the personal representatives will need to prepare estate accounts showing how the estate has been administered and the amounts due to the beneficiaries.
- Administration period tax compliance – the personal representatives need to agree the income or capital gains tax liability for the administration period either by completing estate tax returns or following HMRC’s informal procedure.
- Distributing the balance of the estate – once all other stages are completed, the personal representatives will need to distribute the remaining assets of the estate according to the will or the rules of intestacy.
- 2 How long does probate take?
It typically takes 3 – 6 months to be in a position to apply for the grant. It will then take around another 6 – 18 months to complete the administration of the estate. The timescale will depend on the complexity of the estate, any specific issues that need to be resolved and how efficiently the personal representatives and third parties such as HMRC and the Probate Registry deal with the estate.
- 3 Do you need a solicitor for probate?
While you can theoretically deal with the administration of an estate yourself, this is may not be a good idea. The processes involved can be complicated and any errors could see the personal representatives of the estate held personally liable. If there is inheritance tax payable then specialist advice may be needed to achieve the best result. It is therefore strongly recommended to get support from an expert probate and estate administration solicitor, especially where there are high value and complex assets to deal with.
- 4 What happens if someone dies without leaving a will?
If someone dies without leaving a will, their estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. Intestacy rules generally favour the deceased’s spouse or civil partner, then their children, then any other close relatives. Exactly who may inherit under intestacy rules will depend on what living relatives the deceased has and the location and value of the estate.
- 5 What happens if someone feels they have not been properly provided for?
Any dependants of the deceased not adequately catered for under the Will or, if none, the intestacy rules may be able to make a claim for reasonable financial provision from the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This is commonly known as an Inheritance Act claim and you can find out more about this by taking a look at our contentious probate and inheritance disputes services.
- 6 What happens if someone is concerned about the validity of the Will?
If there are concerns that the Will may not be valid or did not reflect the deceased’s intentions our contentious probate team can advise on this.
- 7 What happens if an executor does not follow the will?
If there are concerns that the executor of a will is not following the deceased’s wishes, it may be possible to have them removed and replaced by an independent professional executor. Our contentious probate team can advise on this.
- 8 What happens if someone named in a will is deceased?
The general principle is that, if a beneficiary of a will has died before the testator, the gift will be considered void and whatever bequest they were due to receive will be distributed to the living beneficiaries.
However, if the beneficiary who has died was a child or grandchild of the deceased, the bequest they were due to receive may pass to any surviving children of their own.
- 9 What happens if there are errors in a will?
If there are mistakes in the way a will has been prepared, these can potentially be corrected after the death of the deceased. This can be done through private agreement between the executors, beneficiaries and any other interested parties or by applying to a court for the deceased’s true intentions to be determined. This is known as ‘will construction and rectification’.
Insights from our probate lawyers
- Spike in contentious probate expected due to lockdown wills
- Increase in claims under the Inheritance Act 1975 due to COVID-19
- HMRC revokes electronic IHT form submission
- Will inheritance tax burst your support bubble?
Speak to our probate and estate administration solicitors about how we can help you
To discuss how our probate and estate administration lawyers can help you, please get in touch.
Related Services and Sectors
- Agriculture, Estates and Rural Business
- Wills and Estate Planning
- Family and Matrimonial
- International Tax and Estate Planning
- Residential Property
- Wealth Structuring
- Contentious Probate
BDB Pitmans is an excellent firm to work with.
Chambers and Partners UK 2020