What is probate?
The probate process covers all the steps that need to be taken to sort out somebody’s estate after they have died. A Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration if there isn’t a will) is the actual court order issued by the Probate Registry which confirms the named person or people - the executor or executors - have the legal right to deal with the deceased person’s estate.
The Grant of Probate, which is an Order of the High Court, authorises the executors to close down bank and building society accounts, to sell or transfer shares, to sell property and to deal with all of the assets in the estate.
The executors of a will can deal with the initial steps of administration before obtaining probate. If there is no will, however, then no action should be taken other than preserving assets until formal Letters of Administration have been issued by the High Court.
Is probate always necessary?
It isn’t always necessary to take formal legal steps to deal with an estate. If it’s a small, mainly cash estate, or one where the assets are jointly held, there may be no need for a Grant of Probate or any formal reporting to HMRC; and the executors may well be able to close accounts and deal with the sale of personal effects relatively easily.
Assets which are owned jointly with the deceased pass to the survivor(s) automatically, without need for any other transfer. Land or property owned by the deceased with others, and held as tenants in common, will form part of the deceased’s estate and the deceased’s share will be disposed of in accordance with their will.
What do I need to obtain probate?
To obtain the Grant of Probate the executors have to complete an Inheritance Tax Return. The information required for this will depend on the value of the estate. We give more details about this below.
The executors also have to complete a statement of truth giving their details and confirming the details of the will and the value of the estate.
If the estate has to pay Inheritance Tax then that tax has to be paid before the Grant of Probate can be issued.
In straightforward cases there may be no need to instruct a solicitor – particularly where the executor is also the sole beneficiary, and so is not accountable to other family members.
Complications, however, are quite often involved; for example, if there are foreign assets involved or Inheritance Tax to pay. Therefore it is often worth considering employing a professional, such as a solicitor, to help. Solicitors are heavily regulated and must hold professional indemnity insurance in case anything goes wrong. You also have the right to be fully informed about the costs before the work starts; and a solicitor must have a complaints procedure in place.
What needs to be done to apply for the Grant of Probate?
It is usually necessary to obtain the following information in order to be able to apply for the Grant of Probate:
- A copy of the Death Certificate. (We advise clients to obtain five or six copies as copies need to be sent out to different parties in order to get information from them; though the actual number will depend on the number of assets involved).
- The deceased’s date of birth, date of death and National Insurance Number.
- Details of the surviving spouse and descendants.
- Details of any gifts involving more than £3,000 in any one year in the seven years before the deceased passed away.
- Whether the deceased had any assets outside the UK.
- Did the deceased benefit from any trusts, and if so, the details.
- Did the deceased benefit from any pension other than a State Pension.
- Details of each bank or building society account, including: the name of the bank or building society, the account name, the account number and the balance at the date of death. If the estate is not going to be taxable, then details as close to the date of death as possible are needed. If the estate is going to be taxable, details of the specific date-of-death balances are required to go in the Inheritance Tax Return.
- Details of any shareholdings, including the name of the company, the nature of the shareholdings and the number of shares held. It will be necessary to contact the company to establish that is the full shareholding and to obtain probate values.
- Details of, and a valuation of, any property owned by the deceased, whether it was in their sole name or jointly. If the estate is not taxable, then this does not need to be a formal probate valuation, but the executors have to provide a value that they believe can be supported by appropriate evidence. This may be a search on Rightmove or Zoopla, for example. If the estate is taxable, then it is advisable to obtain a formal valuation. In current circumstances, surveyors may be able to provide this by what is known as a ‘desktop valuation’ without actually having to view the property internally.
- Details of any other assets that the deceased held, including joint bank and building society accounts.
- And, as well as details of assets, details are also required of any liabilities, such as the funeral account, credit card debts, and utility bills.
Once you have obtained this information (or we have obtained it from the relevant organisations on your behalf), it is necessary to complete an Inheritance Tax Return. If Inheritance Tax is payable, this needs to be paid before applying for the Grant of Probate. If no tax is payable then the Inheritance Tax Return, the application for probate and the accompanying statement of truth need to be sent to the Probate Registry.
Fees And Prices
The fees involved in a probate matter can vary and this will depend on the individual circumstances of every estate.
We offer both fixed fees and an hourly rate charging rate. On an hourly rate you will be charged for each hour of work undertaken.
Fixed Fees for Grant of Probate where no Inheritance Tax is payable
We are able to offer a fixed fee to enable you to obtain a Grant of Probate (or if there is no Will a Grant of Letters of Administration). This is known as our “Grant Only” option. This enables the Executors or Administrators to deal with the administration after we have obtained the Grant of Probate.
Our fixed fee is £1000 plus VAT, i.e. £1200
In addition there will be:-
- Probate Court fees of £155
- Copy Probate fees of £1.50 per copy
- There is a valid Will and it is not disputed
- If there is no Will then all those entitled to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration are in agreement
- Those entitled to apply for a Grant all have Mental Capacity
- No claims are made against the estate
- All information required to make the application is provided without delay when requested.
- You will provide us with the Probate Grant Application fee when requested.
- No Inheritance Tax is payable
- The simplified Return of Estate Information Form can be used
What we will do :
- Provide you with a dedicated probate lawyer and support staff to work on your matter
Identify the Executors or Administrators
- Complete the relevant Probate Application and HMRC forms
- Make the application
- Obtain Probate and send you an agreed number of copies.
- That those entitled to apply for a Grant will promptly attend to the signing of documentation
How long will it take?
On average 6 to 8 months to obtain the Grant once you have provided all the financial information and other information required.
Fixed Fee for Grant of Probate and Estate Administration where there is no Inheritance Tax payable
At LCF we offer fixed fees for Probate Administration cases. We review the estate including the number of assets and beneficiaries. We agree the work to be done with the Executors of the Will or (if there is no Will) the Administrators and provide a fixed cost for that work.
We anticipate our fees will be in the range of £7,500 to £3,000 (including VAT). If the circumstances are more complex than set out above, for example inheritance tax is payable, then we can provide a tailored quote once we have talked through what work is needed.
The price range for this work assumes:
- There is a valid Will and there is full agreement between the Executors
- If there is no Will there is full agreement between all those entitled to deal with the estate
There is only one freehold property and no mortgage
- That the Executors or administrators provide all the details to prepare the Application and Return of Estate Information Form.
- There are no more than 10 bank or building society accounts and no other assets on a prompt basis
- There are no more than 4 beneficiaries
- There are no disputes between beneficiaries on the distribution of the estate. Disputes will increase the costs.
- There is no Inheritance Tax payable.
- There are no claims against the estate
- That all the Executors or Administrators and beneficiaries have capacity to act under the Mental Capacity Act.
- There are no Trusts
- There are no missing Beneficiaries
- There is no requirement to complete a full Inheritance Tax Account
Potential Additional costs:
- If the estate consists of other assets, e.g. stocks and shares or overseas assets there are likely to be additional costs.
- We can give a more accurate estimate when we have more details.
- The costs of dealing with a property are not included
We anticipate our fees will be in the range of £4,800 to £2,760 (this includes VAT).
In addition the following payments may need to be made. This depends on the nature of the assets and number of beneficiaries.
|Probate Court fee||£155|
|Copies of Probate or Administration||£1.50 per copy|
|Land Charges Bankruptcy Search||£2 plus VAT ie £2.40 per beneficiary|
|Land Registry search fee||£3 plus VAT|
|Statutory Adverts in London Gazette and local press for creditors||£150 to £200|
How long will it take?
It usually takes 10-12 weeks to complete the administration. Typically obtaining the grant will take 2 to 4 months collecting in the assets will take a further 1 to 2 months and preparing Estate Accounts and distributing the assets 3 to 4 weeks after the Grant is obtained.
What we will do
- Provide a dedicated and experience Probate Lawyer to work on your matter with approximate support
- Identify those who need to apply for the Grant and the beneficiaries of the estate
Identify the Probate Application you require
- Complete the Probate Application and Return of Estate Information Form for you to sign
- Obtain Probate and an agreed number of copies
- Collect in and distribute all the assets in the estate
The cost of selling or transferring a property is not included in this price. If you require this service please let us know and we will provide you with an estimate in that regard.
Our fees are fixed and include items, detailed above, however there may be factors which would typically increase the cost of the fees involved. Where there is likely to be any additional cost, we will make sure you are informed of this at the earliest opportunity and a clear estimate of those extra costs will be provided.
Additional services that will require the assistance of a third party at additional cost include:
- Tax advice
- Valuations for property, savings, investments or other assets
Why should I use LCF Law for probate?
We appreciate that this is a very difficult time. At LCF Law, we can talk through with you how much of the work you wish to do yourself. There may well be some aspects you can deal with to help reduce costs. We always encourage a potential client to talk to us about what assistance they are looking for. We will tell you how we can help and what the cost will be. You can then make an informed choice.
We have published fixed fees for certain aspects of the process, but once we know what is required we can offer the certainty of a fixed fee for all aspects if you wish.
We are a friendly, approachable team who will guide you through the process and provide you with the support and reassurance you need. We have the necessary expertise to deal with a variety of circumstances, whether it’s foreign assets, businesses or heritage assets of national importance.
If there’s Inheritance Tax to pay, we can advise on any reliefs or exemptions that may be available and seek to reduce the tax bill where possible. If it’s a more straightforward estate, we can simply deal with whatever aspects are needed, so you don’t need to worry about them.
Many of our solicitors are qualified members of the two professional groups: The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners; and Solicitors for the Elderly; and we encourage our staff to study for the specialist exams needed for entry. We also have an expert contentious trusts and estates team, should any dispute arise.
“I don’t know how I would have got through this difficult period without you”.
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