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Probate And The Administration Of Estates

When someone we love dies, acting as their executor or administrator can be extremely stressful. It’s time consuming and complex, and not usually something that is easy to deal with at this difficult time.

Last updated on December 28th, 2020 at 08:53 pm

Key Points

  • Probate is the process of winding up a dead person’s estate, including their assets (money and properties) and liabilities (like mortgages, bills (such as inheritance tax), and debts)
  • If there’s a valid will, it may name more than one executor – they carry out the wishes of the will
  • If there’s no will, the will isn’t valid or the executors are unable or unwilling to act, then administrators (such as residuary beneficiaries of a will or the next of kin) will administer the estate instead
  • If you’re a personal representative (executor or administrator), you’ll need a grant of representation to handle the estate fully – there are three different types you could get depending on the situation

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Administering an Estate

Our wills and probate experts have many years’ experience of dealing with such matters and can offer sympathetic, practical and professional support to get you through the process.

We can help you obtain any of the documents you may need, including a grant of probate or letters of administration, and will administer the estate as smoothly and efficiently as possible for you. We’ll offer you a free initial appointment to discuss matters, whether you are the personal representative or beneficiary of a will. If we think you don’t need our help to deal with the estate effectively, and we can point you in the right direction, we’ll tell you and there will be no charge for that first meeting.

If you do need help, we’ll explain exactly what is required and estimate as accurately as possible the likely costs of instructing us to act on your behalf.


What is probate?

Probate is the term applied to the process of winding up the estate of someone who has died.

When you die, a person or people (up to four) are responsible for ensuring that your assets and liabilities are dealt with in accordance with your will, or, if you haven’t left a will, with the rules of intestacy.

If you made a will, these people are known as executors, and you are likely to have chosen them. If you haven’t made a will, they are called administrators. Collectively they are known as personal representatives.

What will I do if I am a personal representative?

You will need to obtain a grant of representation from the Probate Registry. This is a legal document offering proof that you are entitled to handle the deceased’s estate. It will allow you to handle the estate fully. For example, you’ll be able to use the grant of representation to withdraw funds from bank accounts.

There are three types of grant of representation.

  • Probate. This is issued to one or more executors named in the deceased’s will.
  • Letter of administration (with will). This is issued when there is a will but no executor named, or when the executors are unable or unwilling to apply for the grant.
  • Letter of administration. This is issued when the deceased did not make a will or any will made is not valid.

We can help you to obtain a grant of representation and can deal with the estate of the deceased.

When is a grant of representation needed?

You will need to apply for a grant if:

  • Any bank or building society accounts contain more than £10,000
  • Any stocks or shares were owned
  • Any property was owned (unless it was owned as a joint tenancy and so passes automatically to the other owner)

In some cases a grant is not needed at all, this is usually when the person who died left very little assets.

You don’t normally need to obtain a grant when:

  • Everything the deceased owned was held in joint names with someone to whom the deceased’s share passes automatically (normally a spouse or civil partner).
  • Any bank or building society accounts that the person had contain less than £5000 (though banks and building societies do have the right to insist on probate).
  • With joint bank accounts, the money will go to the surviving partner without the need for probate or a grant of administration.
  • With jointly owned property, the property must be held as beneficial joint tenants not tenants in common) for the deceased’s share to automatically pass to the surviving partner.
  • Some insurance companies, pension companies or banks or building societies will sometimes release cash without probate, either in full or for funeral expenses and inheritance tax, but this differs between organisations.

How can Graysons Sheffield Solicitors help you apply for probate?

If you’re the executor of a will, you will need to provide the following documentation (if not already retained by Graysons) to be granted probate:

  • The original will (with any official amendments – called codicils) plus 3 copies.
  • A completed Inheritance Tax form – even if the estate is below the IHT threshold (Graysons will help you with this).
  • An official copy of the death certificate.

Graysons will then prepare an oath, promising that the information you have given is true to the best of your knowledge, for you to swear in order to apply for the grant. You will receive the grant in the post about 10 days after it is sent to the Probate Registry – assuming there are no IHT issues.

What is the Probate Registry?

The Probate Registry is the section of the courts that issues grants of probate and letters of administration. The principal office is in Central London, and there are several district registries and sub-registries.

How long does it take to be granted probate?

This varies depending on the size of an estate. It can take months for someone to be in a position to apply for probate – for example, by searching for a will and taking stock of all assets for the inheritance tax form.

If the estate is small and simple (for example, cash and personal possessions) and there are no issues or complications, the grant will usually be received within about 8 weeks. For larger estates involving property and multiple types of assets, it can take several further months.

What is an executor?

An executor is a person nominated in a will to administer the estate of someone who has died. There may be one or several executors. Executors aren’t necessarily beneficiaries of the will.

I am an executor but I can’t or don’t want to deal with an estate.

There’s no legal obligation to force an executor to act. An executor can renounce probate but can be prevented from doing so if they have already intermeddled in an estate.

What is the grant of representation?

The grant of representation is the document that gives an executor authority to act on behalf of the person who’s died, to distribute their estate.

What is a probate certificate?

This is another name for the grant of representation, (or letters of administration, if you’re an administrator when there is no will, rather than an executor).

Who can apply for probate?

The people named as executors in the will can apply for probate. If there are no executors named in the will, or the named executors aren’t willing or able to act, then they can appoint someone to do it on their behalf. Alternatively if there are no executors or there is no will, an administrator can apply for letters of administration (instead of probate) so they can deal with the estate. An administrator would usually be a next of kin such as spouse, child or relative, but usually not an unmarried partner.

What are the time limits on applying for probate?

There isn’t a time limit on applying for a grant of probate, but there is a time limit on filing the inheritance tax form with HMRC – and that is 6 months from the end of the month in which the person died.  If the tax form is filed late, interest may be added and if it is filed more than 18 months after the end of the month following death there is a risk of getting a fine.

What does a grant of probate cost?

The cost of administering an estate will depend upon its complexity and value.

Can probate be granted before someone’s death?

Generally speaking, no.

What different types of probate can be granted?

If you are an executor, a grant of probate will be issued.

If you’re an administrator and you have the will, the probate service will issue a grant of letters of administration with the will annexed.

If you’re an administrator and there is no will, you’ll be issued a grant of letters of administration.

Administering an Estate

Administering an estate involves dealing with all the assets and liabilities of the deceased and then distributing the balance of the estate to the beneficiaries entitled under the will or intestacy rules.

Who administers an estate?

If you are an executor or administrator of a will, you will be responsible for administering the estate of the deceased.

Administering an estate can be time consuming and complex and, depending on the record keeping of the deceased and the complexity of their estate, may take a considerable amount of work. You may find that you need help.

Our wills and probate experts offer a compassionate and efficient service. We can help you with the administration or can carry out the whole process for you, and the cost will be met out of the estate involved.

What is involved in estate administration?

When you administer an estate, you will need to do several things, such as:

  • Obtain authority from the Probate Registry to administer the estate.
  • Find out the value of the deceased’s assets at the time of death and collect them (this may involve selling assets). This will include property, bank & building society accounts, shares & investments, cars, jewellery and other assets. Note that some assets, such as bank accounts and property owned as beneficial joint tenants, may pass automatically to someone else.
  • Find out what the deceased’s liabilities are and pay them out of the estate. This will include unpaid bills such as utility bills, mortgages, loans and Inheritance Tax. Please note that you will need to complete a tax return even if no IHT is paid.
  • Establish who the beneficiaries are, either according to the will or intestacy rules.
  • Distribute the balance of the estate to the beneficiaries.
  • You will need to keep a record of all the money you have received and paid out, including interest earned while holding the funds. All the beneficiaries are entitled to see this record.

Every estate is different and some are more complex than others. We offer a full range of services to help in the administration of estates, from simply obtaining a grant of probate to full administration of an estate.

Contact us for a no obligation consultation where we will be happy to advise you on your particular circumstances.

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