What is probate?
Probate is a lerm that refers to administering the affairs of someone who has passed away. It involves identifying their money, property and assets, paying any debts or taxes and then distributing the balance to the beneficiaries.
If a will has been left then it will name the person responsible for carrying out this process, known as an executor. The executor must apply to the court for a legal document authorising them to administer the estate. This document is known as the grant of probate. The court is called the probate registry.
Is a Grant of Probate always needed?
Probate may not be required if the person who has died owned their assets jointly, as those assets will pass automatically to the surviving owners. Nor will probate be needed where the only assets are savings or premium bonds.
Asset holders such as banks have their own rules on whether a grant of probate is required, so if in doubt ask each of them what will be needed to access the asset.
Do I need a solicitor to apply for probate?
You can apply for probate yourself or use the services of a solicitor to do so.
The decision will generally be based on factors such as the value of the estate, the likely cost of employing a specialist, the complexity of the legal issues and the ability of the executor to deal with it unaided.
- the estate is over the Inheritance Tax threshold;
- there is a dispute over the validity of the will;
- there is an inheritance dispute;
- there is no will and the estate is complicated;
- assets are held in trust or there are other complex arrangements;
- assets are held abroad; or
- the person who died resided outside the UK for tax purposes.
We would add to this list, circumstances where a 'variation' of a will could lead to tax savings.
It is important that executors bear in mind that they can be held personally liable, so if they are in any doubt about the legal position or what they are doing then they should seek professional advice. The cost of that advice is generally recoverable from the estate.
How long does it take to obtain probate?
Once the application has been submitted to the probate registry you will have to wait for the grant of probate to be issued. The government website indicates that the process will take about 8 weeks, but we have encountered significantly longer delays with the service.
Because of these delays it is important that you do not make financial committments based upon an assumption that probate will be granted by a certain date.
Probate can also be delayed if a caveat is entered by someone wishing to challenge the will. If you find that a caveat has been entered then there are steps you can take to have the caveat removed.
How long does it take to administer an estate?
Once the grant of probate has been issued then the estate can be administered. There is no set time for this to be completed and timings will depend upon the specific circumstances of the estate in question.
It is generally accepted that executors should have at least 12 months to gather in the assets and pay liabilities before making any distributions to beneficiaries. This is sometimes referred to as the 'Executor's Year'. Executors should not feel pressured into distributing earlier than this as if they do so, and make a serious mistake, then they can be held personally liable.
Probate solicitors in Taunton: How we can help
If you decide that you require the services of specialist probate solicitors in Taunton and Somerset then give us a call on 01823 354545 or email us.
As local Somerset solicitors, we can offer a face to face meeting at your convenience either at our office in Taunton (which is easily accessible and has plenty of parking) or, if needed, in the comfort of your own home.
We provide a sympathetic and caring service that takes all the stress and worry away from you. We can obtain the grant of probate, sort out the tax affairs, settle the liabilities and distribute the assets. Inheritance tax advice can be given and by varying the will thousands of pounds can often be saved.
As an established south west law firm our experience in dealing with farms and businesses means we can work alongside our colleagues in the agricultural and commercial departments to give the very best service where these assets are involved. We also work closely with our conveyancing department who will be able to handle any related property sale.
We offer a cost effective service that combines a practical approach with sensitivity and care. Details of the costs of administering an estate can be found here. For a more detailed estimate of the fees you are likley to incur in relation to probate simply give us a call on 01823 354545 or send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org