Probate & Administration
When a person dies, regardless of whether or not they have a will, their Estate may need to be administered. This means that every asset owned by that person will be dealt with and distributed to the correct beneficiaries. The beneficiaries can either be named in the person’s Will, or paid in accordance with the rules applicable to when a person dies having not left a Will (known as intestacy).
Intestacy rules set out the people who will be entitled to the Estate should someone die without making a Will (known as an “intestate person”). Sadly, this can mean that sometimes, the family members or charities that the intestate person would have liked to have left something to, do not end up getting anything. The UK Government website (GOV.UK) can be consulted to see who gets what in such circumstances. This is why having a Will is such an important aspect of later life planning.
The person dealing with the estate of the person who has died is called an executor or an administrator. An executor is someone who is named in the will as responsible for dealing with the estate. An executor may have to apply for a special legal authority before they can deal with the estate. This is called probate.
An administrator is someone who is responsible for dealing with an estate under certain circumstances, for example, if there is no will or the named executors can’t or aren't willing to act. An administrator has to apply for ‘letters of administration’ before they can deal with an estate.
Although there are some exceptions, it is usually against the law for you to start sharing out the estate or to get money from the estate, until you have probate or letters of administration.
Whether acting as an Executor or an Administrator there will potentially be many things to deal with although not every Estate needs to go to probate. If, for example, there is only a small current account, then the person legally entitled to administrate the Estate, the Executor, may be able to deal with the account without probate.
Where there are several accounts or an amount of money over the bank threshold for probate (the threshold does vary depending on the bank and there is no set limit) or if there is a property which is owned only by the deceased then Probate will be necessary. Probate can sometimes also be necessary for a property which is not owned as joint tenants but owned as tenants in common.
When applying for Probate, an Inheritance Tax form will need to be completed to confirm whether Inheritance Tax (referred to as IHT) is payable or not. There are strict timeframes for inheritance tax to be paid so if inheritance tax is applicable, the earlier you can gather all the information about the value of the deceased’s estate, the better.
The timeframe for Probate varies and depends on the complexity of the Estate, and the value of the assets involved. It is generally in the range of 2 to 8 months, but can take over a year and even more in some cases where the estate is particularly complex.
If you have been named in someone’s will as the/an executor then of course you are perfectly entitled to get on with obtaining probate and distributing the assets without any help.
We do find that a lot of people who find themselves acting as executors for the first time have little idea what exactly they are meant to do and how to go about the whole process. This is particularly so if they not used to dealing with financial matters like bank accounts, investments, shares, property assets and insurance policies.
Castle Estate Solutions provides a service which is infinitely adaptable. At one end of the scale we can do everything, but this could end up being rather expensive, and at the other end we can just advise you as to what you need to do and how to fill in the various forms, and then let you carry on and do it all; or we can provide a service anywhere in between those two extremes. It is the estate which pays our fees in any case, not the executor personally.
In all cases, as with everything else we do, we provide a free, no obligation initial consultation in which you can discuss with us what we might be able to do to help you and what the likely costs might be.