What is Probate and what do Probate Solicitors do?
Our team of Probate Solicitors in Welwyn Garden City deal with all aspects of probate and estate administration.
We approach probate and estate administrations matters in a professional yet sensitive manner.
Your family will find our team’s support invaluable following a bereavement.
Please note that mentions of the UK/United Kingdom in this article refer only to the laws of England and Wales. The laws in other UK jurisdictions such as Scotland and Northern Ireland may differ. You should seek legal advice from a Solicitor in your jurisdiction.
Table of Contents
- What is Probate?
- When is Probate required?
- What is a Grant of Probate?
- What happens if someone dies without a Will?
- What is the difference between a Grant of Probate and a Grant of Administration?
- How long does a Grant of Probate take?
- What are the Probate fees in England and Wales?
- What is the role of an executor in Probate?
- How much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate UK?
- What does a Probate Solicitor do?
- Why would you need a Probate Solicitor?
- How do I choose a probate solicitor?
- How long does estate administration take?
- Your local Probate Solicitors
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.
For more information about how a solicitor can assist you with writing a Will, please click here.
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 12-16 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.
Since 26 January 2022, the Probate fee for all applications is now £273. This change from the previous ‘dual fee’ structure means that both personal and professional applicants will pay the same probate fee. The £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
How much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate UK?
All financial institutions have their own thresholds/requirements, therefore whether probate is required does not depend solely on the value of the estate. Instead, it relies on how the assets are held and which financial institutions they are held with.
When the balance of an asset exceeds the probate threshold of a particular financial institution, they may need to see a Grant of Probate in order to release funds.
Generally, probate isn’t required if the estate is valued at less than £5,000, as most financial institutions will release funds lower than this.
Also, if assets were held jointly, probate is generally not required as these assets automatically pass to the surviving spouse or civil partner. However, some jointly held assets, such as property, may need a Grant if the property is owned as tenants in common rather than beneficial joint tenants.
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.
Why would you need a Probate Solicitor?
Navigating the legal intricacies surrounding estate administration and obtaining a Grant of Probate in the UK can be a daunting task, especially during times of grief. Instructing an experienced solicitor will ensure compliance with all the legal requirements and ease the burden from the bereaved family.
Whilst it is not a legal requirement to instruct a solicitor to deal with probate, it can be a complicated process. We strongly recommend that you obtain legal advice, especially if the estate is large and/or complex, or over the inheritance tax thresholds.
There are several advantages and benefits to instructing a probate solicitor. These include:
Expert Knowledge and Insight:
Dealing with the complexities of probate and estate administration necessitates an expert understanding of UK laws and a familiarity with the Inheritance Tax rules. At Crane & Staples, we have a team of Solicitors specializing in this area who possess the expertise needed to navigate the intricate legal landscape, ensuring all legal formalities are adhered to. Their proficiency aids in avoiding potential pitfalls that could arise from misinterpretation or non-compliance.
Mitigation of Errors and Delays:
The probate process involves meticulous documentation and adherence to specific rules. A minor mistake can lead to prolonged delays and, in some cases, increased Inheritance Tax bills. By engaging a solicitor, you gain access to their meticulous attention to detail, reducing the risk of errors and enhancing the efficiency of the application process.
Addressing Complex Estates:
Estate administration becomes significantly more complex when dealing with intricate or larger estates that include a variety of investments, properties, or foreign assets. Some Estates may also involve trusts from the deceased’s lifetime, or the creation of new trusts from their will. Solicitors possess the capability to handle such complexities adeptly, ensuring accurate reporting and compliance with legal requirements.
Mediation and Conflict Resolution:
Estate distribution can sometimes trigger disputes among family members or beneficiaries. A solicitor’s impartiality and mediation experience can prevent conflicts from escalating, safeguarding family relationships during an emotionally charged period. Their role as a neutral party can foster agreement and consensus, ensuring the deceased’s wishes are carried out. In some circumstances, your solicitor may be able to advise you on how the distribution of the estate may be varied by formal agreement.
Efficient Liaison with Financial Institutions:
Part of the estate administration process involves extensive communication with banks, financial institutions, utility companies, estate agents, the department for work and pensions, and other entities which is always very time-consuming and tedious. Solicitors have established networks and protocols that expedite this process, allowing for swift access to necessary documents and information, thereby facilitating a smooth application process.
Compliance with changing Legislation:
The legal landscape is ever-changing, with laws, allowances and rates subject to change year by year. A solicitor remains abreast of these developments, ensuring your estate administration and probate application remain in compliance with the latest legal updates.
Time and Emotion Management:
The passing of a loved one is emotionally challenging, and the responsibilities associated with estate administration can amplify this burden. Engaging a solicitor allows you to focus on emotional well-being and familial support, while the legal aspects are expertly managed by professionals.
Is it quicker to use a solicitor for probate?
It can be quicker to obtain Probate by using a solicitor for probate, because their knowledge and expertise reduce the likelihood of making a mistake.
Can you do probate yourself without a solicitor?
With a particularly simple estate, you may be able to handle probate yourself without a solicitor, for example if there is little or no money or other assets involved.
How do I choose a probate solicitor?
You can search The Law Society for solicitors in England and Wales who deal with probate.
Various factors may influence your choice of probate solicitor:
Undoubtedly, you will want to instruct a solicitor with significant experience and expertise in probate matters.
At Crane & Staples, our private client team are experts in probate and estate administration. These types of matters often form the bulk of their caseload, and they handle probate cases on a daily bases. Our senior team members have been qualified for over a decade, whilst our junior team members can draw on their own and their colleagues’ experience.
You may look for firms and solicitors with specialist accreditations. For example, WIQS (The Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme) and STEP (The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners).
Similarly, you may look to see if a firm is listed in any prestigious legal directories such as Legal 500 or Chambers.
Reviews can also be a helpful guide when looking to choose a probate solicitor. If a firm has particularly good online testimonials, this may influence your decision.
A recommendation from a friend or family member is often the most valuable guidance when making your choice.
We are proud to say that over 97% of our work comes from repeat clients, recommendations and professional referrals.
Furthermore, you may want to instruct a probate solicitor who is local to you. However, with the use of technology, this is not such a crucial factor anymore.
We are based in the centre of Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. You can read more about how to find us here. Our team are also happy to make home visits to suit your needs.
We have sophisticated technology in place so we can communicate through email and video call if required.
You may consider whether the firm also has a conveyancing team for the sale of any properties. It could be helpful to have all legal matters dealt with by the same firm. This would mean that the teams could liaise with each other to efficiently manage the process.
Of course, cost is a key factor in choosing a solicitor. You should choose a firm that has fair prices to reflect the quality of the service provided.
A guideline of our prices is below and detailed information can be found here.
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 6 – 7 months in a straightforward estate. In a more complex estate, this could take between 8 – 10 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
We are experienced probate solicitors in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
This means we can assist you with all aspects of the estate administration and 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 is tailored to your personal circumstances.
We can assist you with any queries regarding Probate, Estate Administration, Wills, Trusts and Tax, including Inheritance Tax. Please contact our Private Client department on 01707 387074. We look forward to hearing from you.