Estate Administration and ProbateFrequently Asked Questions
It is the legal document issued by the Probate Court known as a Grant of Probate which gives the Executor(s) the right to sort out the financial affairs of the deceased. If there is no Will, it is called a Grant of Letters of Administration.
A Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration is required when dealing with any financial institution, banks and building societies, pension providers, policy providers, selling the deceased’s property, any element of the estate in which there is value. Each asset provider will need to see the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration before they can transfer the asset to a beneficiary or close an account or encash a policy.
Probate is not always required for small estates in England & Wales, it all depends on the size of the estate and the particular assets involved. There are laws in place which allow certain assets to be transferred to someone else and also allows for a maximum of £5,000 cash to be paid out without the need for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration.
However, banks and building societies have their own internal rules about how much money they will release without a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. This could be as little as £5,000 or as much as £25,000. In smaller estates it is worth looking at whether the assets can be released under small estates forms.
It’s hard to define exactly what a small estate is and how much this would be worth. It all depends on the type of assets in the estate; this will determine whether you will need a Grant of Probate. If there is land or a property included in the estate, you will normally need a Grant of Probate unless the land or property is held in joint names. If this is the case, it will usually automatically pass to the surviving joint owner. This is the same for any jointly owned bank accounts or joint survivor life policies. It is always worth checking whether a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration (where there is no Will) is needed and investigations should be made into the value of the assets, type of assets and how those assets are held.
If there is a Will you will need to value the estate which includes all investments, bank and building society accounts, pensions and annuities, life policies, property and land, art, antiques, jewellery, cars and any other possessions. You need to establish if there are any assets outside the UK. You must determine whether the deceased made any gifts in the 7 years prior to their death.
You must also determine the value of all debts owing at the date of death. This can include mortgages, loans, outstanding utility accounts and any other outstanding invoices.
Once you have an idea of the value of the estate and the types of assets you can determine whether a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration is needed.
If a Grant is required you must complete the relevant Inheritance Tax papers, the complexity of the paperwork is determined by the size of the estate. This paperwork is sent to H M Revenue and Customs and if Inheritance Tax is due it must be paid.
An application form must also be completed for the Probate Registry and this can often be followed by a personal appearance at the Probate Registry or local Probate Office. You will need to swear the Oath. If the application is made by a solicitor there is no need for the personal application.
Once the Grant is issued this can be used to close bank accounts, encash policies, sell or transfer shares and property.
You will need to then settle all debts and resolve all tax issues which include Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax.
Once everything has been dealt with the estate can be distributed in accordance with the Will.
The whole process can be very complex depending on the size of the estate and the assets involved.
It does not take that long to obtain the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. On average; you can expect to receive a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration within 14 days after the Probate Registry receives your application. However, it will depend on the current case load of your local Probate Registry at the time you apply for the Grant. It will take longer if there is Inheritance Tax to pay as there is an extra stage of arranging for the tax to be paid and waiting for HM Revenue and Customs to confirm receipt of the tax by sending a stamped form (IHT421) which is needed before the application can be made, so it will take on average a further 21 days for this stage to be completed. However, this is just the application stage beforehand the Executor must obtain details of all the deceased’s assets and liabilities and this can be time consuming depending on the nature of the investments.
This will depend on a number of factors, are you the Executor and thinking of administrating the Estate yourself or are you are going to engage the services of a Probate Solicitor. Administering an Estate can be a lengthy and complex process depending on the size of the estate and the assets involved. A Solicitor who specialises in this area of law will be able to complete the process in a shorter period of time than perhaps a lay Executor could. The complexity of the Estate will also have a bearing on the timeline for completion. For example, an Estate that consists of multiple shares, bank accounts, investments, savings etc. will take longer to administer than an Estate with fewer assets to gather in. An Estate with business assets or a farm or agricultural land will take longer if you are applying for Inheritance Tax exemptions. If there is Inheritance Tax to pay then the forms will be looked at by H M Revenue and Customs and the Executor will need to wait for clearance.
As a general rule all Executors are given a period of time that is classed as the ‘Executor’s year’, which runs from the date of the Grant of Probate, in which to complete the process of fully administering the Estate.
As the Executor or Administrator you are responsible for the estate which will include notifying the bank of the death and providing them with a copy of the death certificate as well as your ID. Once the bank has received this they will either freeze the account or close it fully depending on the amount in the account. All direct debits or standing orders will be cancelled and any continuous payments will be stopped. It is important that you, as the Executor or Administrator, contact the companies concerned and set up a new payment scheme or ask them to put the account on hold until funds are available.
The bank will only allow funds in the account to be used to settle the funeral account. The bank will require sight of the original funeral invoice and they will settle the invoice direct with the funeral director. The bank will also allow monies in the deceased’s bank account to be used to pay any Inheritance Tax but again the payment is made direct to H M Revenue and Customs.
It simply means that an application for Probate is required. See how do I apply for Probate.
A probate court is a court that has legal jurisdiction to deal with matters of probate and the administration of estates. The probate court ensures the proper administration of the assets in a deceased’s estate, confirms the validity of wills, enforces the provisions of a valid will (by issuing the grant of probate), prevents misconduct by executors and administrators of estates, and provides for the rightful distribution of the assets of persons who die intestate (without a valid will), such as by granting a grant of administration giving judicial approval to the personal representative to administer matters of the estate.
In contested matters, the probate court examines the authenticity of a will and decides who is to receive the deceased person's property. In a case of an intestacy, the court determines who is to receive the deceased's property under the law of its jurisdiction. The probate court will then oversee the process of distributing the deceased's assets to the proper beneficiaries. A probate court can be petitioned by interested parties in an estate, such as when a beneficiary feels that an estate is being mishandled. The court has the authority to compel an executor to give an account of their actions.
At Start Point Law we will agree a fixed fee following an initial meeting or telephone conversation. We will clearly set out the services we will provide based on the information you have provided. We will let you know upfront any additional expenses such as the Probate Court fee, swear fee, etc.