Probate needs a professional touch

When a loved one dies you may be appointed under a Will or as next of kin (where no Will exists) to sort out their property, money and other possessions, a process known as administering their estate.


As the executor or administrator, you will have to arrange to collect the estate’s assets in and you may have to apply for a grant of probate or letters of administration at the Probate Registry to be able to deal with some of the assets.


You may also need to submit an account to HMRC to account for Inheritance Tax and to claim the available tax reliefs. Once the grant has been obtained, you then will have responsibility for paying the deceased’s debts, obtaining clearance from HMRC and you will need to distribute the assets in accordance with a Will or under the rules of intestacy.


This responsibility can be overwhelming especially with a complicated estate, which can be challenging and time-consuming, at what can already be a very difficult time.


Suzanne Porter, head of the private client team at Wake Smith, looks at how probate professionals can help you through the process.


She said: “Put simply, the executor's or next of kin's job when dealing with probate, involves gathering any assets, eg: money left in bank accounts, paying any bills and distributing what's left according to the Will.


It can be a demanding process, often at a difficult and emotional time and will involve several steps.


Not only do you have to apply for a grant of probate and sort out Inheritance Tax; but contact every organisation that the deceased had a relationship with, including Government bodies and financial and utility companies, to get back any money owed and ensure no more charges are taken.


Paying off any debts, claiming on any life insurance plans, valuing the estate and sharing out any remaining assets is also your responsibility.


This can be made much simpler with the use of a probate specialist, especially where the estate is complicated, to save you time and frustrations.”


Wake Smith’s professional Wills and Probate team deals with probate and estate administration when:

  • The value of the estate is over the Inheritance Tax threshold and the estate is still earning a regular income where there are complicated taxes due. The threshold for the current tax year is £325,000.

  • The deceased has died without a Will, and there is a complicated estate to administer.

  • There are doubts about the validity of the Will.

  • The deceased had dependents who were deliberately left out of the Will, but who might want to make a claim on the estate.

  • The estate has complex arrangements, such as assets held in a trust.

  • The estate is bankrupt, also known as insolvent.

  • There are doubts that the estate is bankrupt.

  • The estate includes foreign property or foreign assets.

  • The deceased resided outside the UK for tax purposes.


Last November, the Government reversed its decision to change the flat rate probate fee, which is paid when administering someone's estate after they die, to a sliding scale depending on the size of the estate. The change would have seen some bereaved families pay almost £6,000 extra.


For the time being, the fee remains at £215 for estates over £5,000, or £155 if families apply through a solicitor. Probate fees will be reviewed ongoing as part of the annual assessment of charges in family and civil courts.


For further information on probate and estate management issues during the COVID-19 pandemic contact Suzanne Porter at Wake Smith Solicitors on 0114 266 6660.

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