What is involved in a probate or grant of letters of administration?
The term “probate” tends to be used to describe the process whereby a deceased person’s affairs are dealt with by an executor or an administrator and comes from the “Grant of Probate” which is the legal document that must be obtained by the executor (an administrator – who is responsible for the estate where there is no will gets a document called “Letters of Administration”) in order to gain access to the affairs of the deceased.
Although it is possible for an individual to undertake the process themselves, it can be complicated and time-consuming, especially if there are a large number of beneficiaries (people receiving gifts) or the value of the estate is a particularly high or there are a lot of different types of investments. That is why having the matter dealt with by an experienced solicitor is often the route chosen by many people.
As with much of legal work, the amount that we will need to do to deal with a grant of probate or the administration of an estate will depend upon the complexity of the estate and what is required. A simple estate, therefore, comprising only a house in the sole name of the deceased person, and a bank/building society account with the whole estate being left to a single child of the deceased person will require far less work than if there are multiple properties, several bank or building society accounts, shares, investments, insurance policies, business interests and a range of beneficiaries.
Please be assured that we will always advise you to the best of our ability at the outset as to the likely complexity of the matter and try at all times to ensure that it is handled as expeditiously as possible.
The actual individual tasks that we will need to undertake will vary from transaction to transaction. However, the work to be carried out could include:
- Taking your initial instructions and either advising you on the terms of the deceased’s will and discussing the duties of the executors or advising you as to how the estate will be administered where there is no will (referred to as an “intestacy”);
- Obtaining a valuation of the estate (which could include houses, possessions, bank and building society accounts, insurance policies and shares) and working out whether there are any liabilities. This might involve:
- writing to utility providers such as gas, electricity and telephone providers;
- dealing with council tax;
- dealing with house insurance (and in particular making sure that it does not lapse following the death);
- writing to share registrars and others responsible for any investments; and
- gathering together details of any bank accounts;
- Once we have a value for the estate, we will prepare the Inheritance Tax form and Oath for Executors (application for the Grant) and work out the Inheritance Tax (if any) that the estate will need to pay;
- Sending the Inheritance Tax forms to HMRC and then arranging the first payment of Inheritance Tax from the assets of the estate. Once this has been done, we can then submit the application for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration;
- Once we have the Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration id there was no will), sending it, and any relevant letters of authority, to the various banks, insurers, financial institutions, and managers of investment in order to collect in the assets and discharge any liabilities;
- Taking any further steps needed in relation to Inheritance Tax and obtaining a clearance certificate from HMRC;
- Making any necessary arrangements to sell or transfer any property such as houses, possessions etc. If these have been left to specific individuals these will be transferred to those individuals – otherwise they will be sold for the benefit of the estate;
- Arranging any necessary statutory notices for creditors in the London Gazette/local press;
- Identifying and then corresponding with beneficiaries regarding the distribution of the estate and paying any interim legacies or any pecuniary legacies that are due under the will or intestacy;
- Preparing Estate Accounts for executors/administrators;
- Carrying out bankruptcy checks for beneficiaries;
- Ultimately paying out the final balances as appropriate.