There are many ways in which Aston Brooke can assist with the probate process ranging from limited fixed fee guidance on certain aspects such as assistance with form filling and procedures, to dealing with the entire estate administration process – especially where the assets and liabilities are complex, inheritance tax may be payable, or there may be missing beneficiaries or trusts involved.
Our approach is entirely flexible ensuring that you have the level of help and support you need rather than the more “traditional” approach of only offering to deal with the whole matter at a percentage cost of the value of the estate.
With more than 60% of the population in the UK dying intestate (without having made a Will) it is essential to plan for the future and properly provide for family and friends. By making a will you also maximise tax savings and avoid leaving financial affairs and distribution of assets in chaos.
Why do I need a Will?
A Will provides certainty and guides those who are left behind and saves worry at a time of great emotional stress. Other benefits include:
- Preparation, review and amendment of wills
- Choosing who inherits your assets and making specific gifts of items you want specified people to have
- Avoiding the situation where you don’t leave a will (known as Intestacy) whereby government rules determine who benefits
- Minimising or avoiding Inheritance tax
- Reduce financial problems for beneficiaries
- Choose Legal Guardians for your children
- Choose your own executors.
- Set up trusts for children/grandchildren which can be flexible and allow money to be used for their benefit before they finally become fully entitled
- Make charity donations
- Make your own funeral arrangements and decide whether you want burial or cremation
- Avoiding family disputes
How we can help?
Aston Brooke’s specialists can provide legal advice and assistance in a variety of probate issues, including but not limited to:-
- Preparation, review and amendment of wills
- Inheritance tax planning
- Advice on issues in Wills such as guardianship, adoption and divorce
- Help for executors in obtaining Grants of Probate
- Advising on contested wills
- Preparation of Lasting Powers of Attorney
- Registering Enduring Powers of Attorney
- Advice on trusts
- Winding up and distributing estates
The Probate Process
When somebody dies, there is a period, pending probate, when nobody has the right or obligation to represent the deceased legally. Assets (including property) in an estate will remain frozen until the Probate Registry gives legal authority (via a document known as a Grant of Representation) to the individual(s) nominated in the Will as executors, to deal with the deceased’s legal matters.
If there is a Will, the estate will pass to the people named in the Will. If there is no Will certain rules, known as the Rules of Intestacy, will apply. The probate process, depending on many factors but not just the type and number of assets and availability of information and supporting documents, can take from months to years.
The Role of Executors
Executors are the persons named in a will by the deceased as individuals the deceased chose to deal with the administration of his or her estate and who will make the application for probate. The basic role is to collect assets, pay off liabilities including any inheritance tax and then to distribute assets according to the WILL. Some probate matters are straightforward; others involve significant legal and practical challenges.
There are also situations where a WILL is not made, in which case the rules governing administration of the estate and distribution of assets are contained in statutory rules known as the Intestacy rules.
Executors are not legally required to accept their appointment and can renounce their role. Commonly executors are family members of the deceased who may also be beneficiaries under the will. Due to the technicalities of probate law or, all too commonly, family disagreements or disputes, executors may instruct probate solicitors and lawyers to assist with the administration and help with applying for probate.
An executor’s duties include drawing up accounts providing all the details of assets and liabilities and possibly enabling any necessary tax return to be completed.
The executor must also:
- Inform the next of kin, close family and any potential heirs of the death and of his/her/their role as executor.
- Possibly appoint a solicitor, to help administer the estate
- Obtain copy of will and carry out instructions within it. If necessary, register the death and assist with funeral arrangements.
- Ensure assets are listed and if necessary made secure, for example, locating the house keys and locking property.
- Locate any life insurance policies and paperwork such as membership forms, shares and stocks, bonds and pension information.
- Find all household bills to see if an remain.
- Collect together all tax records. At this stage do not dispose of things such as business related paperwork,
tax records, wage slips etc even if they appear to be out of elderly.
- If the deceased person is a business owner all paperwork relating to the business including VAT records and accounts will be needed.
- Gather details of professional advisors such as accountants, solicitors etc.
- Complete a tax return if needed.
- Pay off any outstanding debts.
- Locate beneficiaries and creditors and if necessary advertise in local or national papers for any missing beneficiaries.
- Distribute the assets after payment of liabilities, including any tax.
- Executors should set up an account solely for the purpose of dealing with the estate so that any money paid to the estate is easy to see.
Is a Grant of probate always needed?
There are circumstances in which a formal grant may not be required, notwithstanding that it is always safer to obtain one. Generally, if a deceased had very limited assets, it is possible that a Grant may not be needed, and the below factors may help in determining whether one is needed:
- Has a bank or insurance company, National Savings or Government body, holding the Deceased’s money or policies or pensions, asked for a Grant?
- Did the Deceased own property (house, land & buildings) at the date of death and which was not held as ‘Joint Tenants’?
- Did the Deceased have more than £5,000 in total Estate left at the date of death?
- Did the Deceased have foreign money or property at the date of death?
- Did the Deceased have business interests, beyond just self employed trade?
How can we help ?
We can assist in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:-
- Help determine the size of an estate for Probate and Inheritance Tax purposes
- Prepare an application for the Grant of Representation on your behalf and help lodge the required forms with the
relevant organisations to collect monies due to the estate and settle any outstanding debts
- If a deed of family arrangement saves tax, we can advise and guide
- We can arrange the transfer or sale of any shares and our Residential property team will handle the sale of any
property or land owned by the deceased