Dealing with an estate can be an extremely stressful and time consuming experience – and is often also an emotional experience, as an estate frequently details a person’s life and their last wishes.
If the deceased has left a will, the estate will be handled by an executor and usually a solicitor or accountant acting as a professional executor, who will oversee the drawing together of property and financial assets and their distribution.
If the total value of the estate is below £15,000, probate will not be required. Similarly, any assets held in trusts will be managed by the trustees and will not be included in the estate.
If there is no will, a close family member will usually act as the deceased’s personal representative in dealing with the estate – and may appoint executors to help, as well as a solicitor who acts as a professional executor.
When dealing with an estate, it is always advisable to seek legal advice from a specialist Wills and Probate solicitor – not only because of the practical aspects of collecting together assets and applying for probate so that the estate can be distributed; but also because when a loved one dies, family grief can sometimes lead to friction over more practical matters such as administering the estate.
Instructing a Probate solicitor to act for the family can not only help speed up the administration of an estate, a Probate solicitor is impartial. Other family members may also instruct their own solicitors if there is any dispute, or if a will is to be contested, or if there is a move to have a will declared invalid (i.e. because there is a suspicion it was made under duress or is a forgery).
When a will is contested, it will certainly be necessary to seek expert legal advice, if you are dealing with an estate or are a beneficiary.
It is also advisable to appoint a solicitor as a professional executor when there is a high-value estate involved, or a large number of bequests and beneficiaries, or there are complex tax liabilities involving inheritance tax, capital gains tax, or cross-border matters, as with internationally held assets such as a holiday home overseas.
Other complex probate matters might involve a will with trusts, or if there is a family business or other business involved (especially if the deceased was a partner).
A professional executor such as a solicitor can apply for probate on behalf of the family and beneficiaries – and can also advise on any inheritance tax or capital gains tax due to be paid. This has to be paid before the estate can be distributed to beneficiaries.
Without a professional executor, the personal representative has to make a personal application to the local Probate Registry and complete all the forms and paperwork on behalf of the estate – including the process of valuing all the assets, dealing with any inheritance tax and advising HMRC of this, as well as dealing with debts, pensions, any welfare benefits and advising utilities companies of the person’s death.
The process of dealing with an estate can be extremely complex and it is always advisable to speak to a Wills and Probate solicitor if you are unsure about the process.
Duncan Lewis Wills and Probate solicitors offer competitively-priced fixed fees for wills and probate matters, whenever possible – and hourly rates for contentious probate matters.
There are Duncan Lewis offices nationwide and in most major cities – our specialist Probate lawyers can advise on all wills and probate matters, including trusts, international wills, rules of intestacy and inheritance tax.
For expert legal advice on wills, probate and dealing with an estate, call Duncan Lewis Wills and Probate solicitors in confidence on 0333 772 0409.