Probate matters can be very complicated and may present difficulties unforeseen at the outset.

To cover the vast majority of issues faced in probate matters would require a website in itself, and not all issues will apply in every case.

The Attwaters Jameson Hill Wills, Trusts & Probate team has put together this brief guide to answer some of the questions commonly asked by our clients.

Time Scale

Most probates take between 4-12 months.

By law, the Executors have a year to distribute the Estate before interest starts to accrue on outstanding legacies.

Stage 1 – Careful sorting of the deceased’s papers

Once we have gone through all the papers we will write to all the various companies (banks, building societies, life assurance companies, utilities, pension providers etc) in order to formally advise them of the death and to request a valuation of the various assets and the particular details required for income tax and inheritance tax purposes.

It is especially important to notify the home insurers at this time and to comply with any endorsements that may attach to the policy to ensure that the deceased’s property is as fully protected as possible.

When all valuations and the extent of the deceased’s liabilities have been obtained, Attwaters Jameson Hill’s Wills, Trust & Probate team begin to prepare the inheritance tax forms and other documents required to apply for the Grant of Representation.

Stage 1 tends to be the longest stage of any probate and can take some months particularly for larger or more complicated estates. An average timescale is between 3 – 6 months.

Stage 2 – Preparation and application for the Grant of Representation

The Grant of Representation is an official, stamped document which proves that the Personal Representatives have power to deal with the deceased person’s Estate. In the vast majority of cases, a Grant is required by banks, assurance companies etc before they will release funds.

If there are Executors in a Will applying for the Grant, it will be called a Grant of Probate. Otherwise it will be called a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Once all information has been collated and analysed, Attwaters Jameson Hill’s Wills, Trust & Probate team can prepare the various documents required for the application for the Grant of Representation. These will include the HMRC inheritance tax form and also the formal Oath for Executors or Oath for Administrators if there is no Will.

We will write with instructions for the Personal Representatives at the relevant time but the Oath must be sworn in front of an independent solicitor. The inheritance tax form needs to be signed by the Personal Representatives. Once signed and sworn the documents are returned to us.

If inheritance tax is payable this is submitted to HMRC together with the inheritance tax account. HMRC will then return a stamped receipt to us and the application can be made to the Probate Registry to extract the Grant of Representation.

It normally takes 1 month to prepare and swear the Oath and inheritance tax forms and for the application to be processed by the probate registry.

Stage 3 – Collecting in money and assets

When the Grant has issued we can begin the process of collecting in the money and assets.

Banks, building societies and life assurance companies will usually require sight of the Grant, which we will send to them.

The deceased’s money is then (in most cases) paid direct to Attwaters Jameson Hill’s client account. As soon as possible we pay all the deceased’s debts including any remaining Inheritance Tax and deduct our charges. The Executors would consider placing the statutory advertisements at this time to protect them against possible unknown creditors.

The Personal Representatives will need to account to HMRC for the income tax for the tax year in which the deceased died to the date of death. We will ask the various banks, pension providers etc. for the necessary information to prepare the tax return.

As a result there may be an income tax repayment or liability. During the administration of the Estate it is likely that income will be received from bank accounts, national savings investments and shares etc.. or capital gains accrue on the sale of certain assets. The Personal Representatives will need to account for this to HMRC prior to the final distribution of the Estate. If it appears that any capital gains may occur on the sale of assets, we will advise the Personal Representatives on how best to mitigate this.

We will obtain clearance certificates from HMRC to confirm that there are no further Inheritance Tax or Income tax liabilities.

Finally, Attwaters Jameson Hill’s representatives will distribute the Estate in accordance with the Will (if any) or with the laws of Intestacy. If there are any assets to be transferred or sold (such as a house) this can be also be done.

Stage 4 – Winding up the estate

We do this by distributing funds to those entitled and accounting to our clients with a set of full Estate Accounts. The accounts show every item of income and expenditure, and if interest has accrued on money in our client account we pay this out accordingly.

We must stress that this is only intended as a thumbnail guide, rather than the comprehensive, tailored legal advice that our Wills, Trusts and Probate team supplies as a matter of course to our probate clients.

Attwaters Jameson Hill’s Wills, Trusts & Probate specialists are available in all our offices and can arrange to visit you in your own home, nursing home or hospital if preferred.

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