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What is Probate and what do Probate Solicitors do?

Article written by Georgina Donnellan

We can deal with all aspects of probate and the estate administration of a deceased person’s estate. Our Probate Solicitors are experienced in dealing with both straightforward and complex estates.

We can advise and assist in estate administrations in a professional yet sensitive manner. Your family will find our team’s support invaluable following a bereavement.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process of applying to the Court to prove that a Will is valid and confirming who has authority to administer the estate of the person who has died.

Before the Executor named in the will can cash in, sell or distribute any of the deceased's assets, they might have to apply for a grant of probate.

Once the Grant of Probate is obtained, the Executor/ person named on it can deal with the estate administration of someone who has died, which generally means clearing their debts and distributing their assets in accordance with their will.

When is Probate required?

There is no “yes or no” answer as to whether Probate will be needed in a particular estate.  It depends on the assets held and the requirements of each financial institution.

If the person who died owned property or significant assets in their sole name then a Grant of Probate will probably be required.

Your Probate Solicitors can advise you whether Probate will be required in a particular estate.

What is a Grant of Probate?

A grant of probate is a legal document that the Court will produce, naming the Executor/the person who has applied to the Court as the person entitled to administer the estate. The grant of probate then gives the executor(s) the legal right to administer the estate and carry out actions such as closing accounts, selling property and distributing assets.

What happens if someone dies without a Will?

If someone dies without a Will, they are said to have died “intestate”. Their estate/assets then pass under the Intestacy Rules which essentially means to their next of kin/closest living family members. It will also be your next of kin who is entitled to administer your estate and apply for Probate.

What is the difference between a Grant of Probate and a Grant of Administration?

An estate administration without a Will can take place. However there is a slightly different process. In these cases, the Court document will be called a “Grant of Administration” rather than a “Grant of Probate”.

How long does a Grant of Probate take?

In the UK, once your application for a Grant of Probate has been submitted to the Court, we would expect the Court to accept it in around 4-6 weeks.

Your Probate Solicitors will keep you updated about any delays at the Probate Registry.

What are the Probate fees in England and Wales?

Before January 2022, where an estate was valued at more than £5,000, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) charged £155 for an application by a professional i.e. a solicitor, and £215 for personal applicants.

From 26 January 2022, the new Probate fee for all applications is £273.

Are probate fees going up?

Yes, from 26 January 2022, all probate applications will be charged a new fee of £273. Under an amendment to the Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order 2004 published in December 2021, the Probate fee was increased to £273. This change from the previous ‘dual fee’ structure means that both personal and professional applicants will pay the same probate fee. The new £273 fee is meant to only cover the costs of processing probate applications, not making the Government any profit.

What is the role of an executor in Probate?

An executor is legally responsible for carrying out instructions set out in a will after someone has died. There are many responsibilities associated with being an executor, including:

  • registering the death
  • arranging the funeral
  • finding all financial documentation relating to the deceased person and valuing the estate
  • preparing and sending off the documents required by the probate registry and HMRC and paying any inheritance tax
  • applying for probate
  • notifying creditors and publishing legal notices
  • collecting all assets and money due to the estate of the person who died and deciding when to sell property
  • distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in the Will
  • keeping estate accounts

What does a Probate Solicitor do?

The goal of Probate Solicitors is to take the administrative burden away from you. Your Solicitor will help you handle matters as quickly and efficiently as possible.

When administering an estate, a probate solicitor will generally carry out the following tasks, though this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Reviewing all of the relevant estate papers.
  • Carrying out a full investigation into the value of the estate assets and any liabilities and making direct contact with the relevant institutions.
  • Preparing Inheritance Tax Returns/Accounts where necessary.
  • Applying for and obtaining the Grant of Probate/Administration.
  • Arranging the sale (other than land), closure or transfer of estate assets once the Grant of Probate has been obtained.
  • Settling any estate liabilities identified from the estate assets.
  • Dealing with any income tax liability owing at the date of death, unless this is already being dealt with by the deceased’s accountant, for example.
  • Sorting out any income tax liability arising during the estate administration period.
  • Calculating any capital gains tax liability arising during the estate administration period and advising on ways to mitigate this, if possible.
  • Setting up any trusts created by the Will
  • Overseeing distribution of estate assets.
  • Preparing final, detailed Estate Accounts for the residuary beneficiaries of the estate.

You can find out more about how a Solicitor can help with the process of dealing with someone's estate on The Law Society website.

How much does probate cost with a solicitor?

We pride ourselves on offering a premium, sympathetic and professional service at a competitive price. If you instruct Crane & Staples as your probate solicitors, we will provide you with full details of our costs. We aim to keep you updated every step of the way. Each estate administration is different with varying levels of complexity, so we cannot give a fixed price.

However, we generally find that the fees for carrying out the full administration of a deceased person’s estate will lie somewhere in the region of 1% – 2% of the value of the estate plus VAT. This includes both our time spent and any responsibility component. Detailed information about our probate and estate administration fees can be found on this page.

How long does estate administration take?

The length of time it takes to administer an estate depends on the estate involved. There is no set time scale for this.

In all but the most straightforward cases, we will need a grant of probate (where there is a will) or a grant of administration (where there is no will). This will enable you to cash in assets or transfer them to beneficiaries.

Typically, obtaining the grant of probate takes 4 – 5 months in a straightforward estate. In a more complex estate, this could take between 6 – 8 months.

Collecting the assets then follows which can take another 6 – 8 weeks, excluding dealing with the property.

You can then pay the liabilities and expenses of the administration. Afterwards, you can arrange to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will.

Your local Probate Solicitors

Our team of experienced estate administration solicitors can assist you with all aspects of the probate process.

We appreciate that this is a difficult time for you. As your Probate Solicitors, we will look after you respectfully and support you in a professional manner. Our advice will be tailored to your personal circumstances.

We can assist you with any queries regarding Probate, Estate Administration, Wills and Trusts. Please contact our Private Client department on 01707 387074. We look forward to hearing from you.

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