Amidst the grief of losing a loved one, families also face the daunting prospect of administering their estate. Jane Marland, Director and Solicitor in the Wills, Trusts and Probate Department at HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors talks about probate and what it could mean for you.
Is probate relevant to me?
Frequently families are asked to produce “Probate” before they can deal with any of the deceased’s assets but they are often unsure what probate is or how it can be obtained. Probate is the legal process for dealing with the estate of someone who has died. A Grant of Representation (Grant) is usually required before the assets can be passed onto any beneficiaries. This is called a Grant of Probate if there is a Will. If there is not a will, you will need a Grant of Letters of Administration.
There are two aspects to obtaining a Grant of Probate. Firstly the Personal Representative must show that he or she is entitled to act. This means they are the Executor named in the deceased’s last, valid Will. If a Will is not in place they are entitled to apply under the rules of intestacy.
The second aspect to be dealt with during the probate process is inheritance Tax. The correct form must be filed setting out the assets and liabilities and the Inheritance Tax calculation.
Do I need a probate solicitor?
It is possible to apply for probate in person but a solicitor’s advice can be valuable particularly in certain instances; for example if the estate contains foreign assets or a Will Trust.
A solicitor can also check the validity of the Will and advise the family on how to best address any defects in the Will. If there is no Will a solicitor can give advice on who is entitled to benefit from the estate.
Another complexity is when an estate is insolvent, the Personal Representative needs to be sure that they are distributing the estate in the correct order; if they do not then they could find themselves left personally liable. A solicitor can advise on the protection available against personal liability.
An important obligation of a Personal Representative is to demonstrate how the estate has been administered. Solicitors can produce estate accounts clearly setting out the assets, liabilities and how each beneficiary’s entitlement has been calculated.
It can also be cost effective to instruct a solicitor to ensure that all the correct inheritance tax exemptions, reliefs and allowances have been claimed. H M Revenue & Customs is under no obligation to alert a family to the fact that they have failed to claim everything due to the estate.
A solicitor can also advise beneficiaries on the use of Deeds of Variation to minimise Inheritance Tax by re-directing their inheritance to the next generation.
How much will a probate solicitor cost?
At such an emotional time, some families are naturally concerned about the fees they may incur using a solicitor during the probate process. But a good solicitor will always strive to give the fullest details on costs so the family can make an informed decision right from the outset. Ask for as much detailed information upfront as possible, to allow you to make the right decision for you.
For further information or legal advice about how to apply for probate email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on Hitchin 01462 458711, Welwyn Garden City 01707 887701.