PROBATE FACT SHEET Whether or not you were close to the person with whose estate we are dealing, this is a very difficult time and, with years of experience behind us in such matters, we aim to guide you through what are sometimes quite complicated procedures efficiently. It is impossible to give hard and fast time scales as to how long the administration of an estate will take to conclude because each case differs from another. We will, however, do our best at the outset to give you an estimate of the time it will take to conclude the matter and if we subsequently have to revise that time estimate, we shall advise you at that stage. GRANT OF PROBATE OR LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION If the deceased died with a Will then the Executors must obtain a Grant of Probate to the Will. If the deceased died intestate (i.e. without a will) then the next of kin (called “the Administrator”) will have to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration. In either case until such a Grant is obtained, none of the assets of the deceased’s estate can be touched. The only exception is assets held jointly with another person. These will automatically transfer into the name(s) of the other joint holder(s). In cases, however, where an account was held in the sole name of the deceased, certain Banks/Building Societies may be prepared to release money to pay the funeral directors bill before a Grant is obtained. Documentation we require The first thing we need to do following the death is obtain the original Will (if we do not already hold it) or if there is no Will to have details of the next of kin so that we can build up a “family tree.” We shall advise you on who will be entitled to the estate in cases where there is no Will. We shall also need an original death certificate and details of all the assets comprised in the estate as well as the passbooks, certificates or other documentation which may have been issued in respect of those assets. If the estate includes an interest in a house, we shall of course require the title deeds. Valuations We will need to obtain date of death valuations of each asset, including any personal possessions, owned by the deceased and the contents of any house in which he or she may have been living at the date of death. We also need to have a valuation of any car or other moveable asset owned by the deceased. If the deceased was entitled to a State pension or other State benefits, the person registering the death with the Registrar will have been given a Certificate to enable us to claim any outstanding pension/benefit from the Benefits Agency. We shall require that Certificate and, if appropriate, the pension book, so that we can complete the form and send it to the Benefits Agency. We shall also require any paperwork relating to the deceased’s debts, such as household utility bills, any bank loan or credit card bills, mail order catalogues. We will also need any documentation relating to income tax. NOTICE PERIODS By law where the Executors are not the beneficiaries, the Executors should place what are known as “statutory notices” in the London Gazette (an historical publication) and in a newspaper which circulates in the area where the deceased lived immediately prior to his or her death. No part of the estate can be distributed by the Executors until at least 2 months from the date of theses advertisements. In some cases we will not be able to administer the estate until at least 6 months from the date of death. This will be the case if there is a potential claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependents) Act 1975. In other cases there may be a potential claim to the estate to be taken into account. This may arise, for example, where the Will is challenged on the basis of lack of mental capacity of the deceased, or where it is alleged that the deceased signed a Will by mistake, or the Will was otherwise invalidly executed, or where it is alleged that the deceased was influenced to sign a Will in a particular way. We are afraid that it is becoming rather more frequent now than in the past for Wills to be challenged, so we would appreciate your forbearance if, due to circumstances beyond our control, we have to advise you of a possible delay in the administration of the estate. APPLYING FOR A GRANT OF REPRESENTATION Once we have ascertained the value of the estate at the date of death, we can prepare the probate papers that need to be signed by the Executors/Administrators. If they are local to our office then we will invite them to attend at our office so that we can explain and supervise signature of the papers. If they are not geographically local to us then we will post the papers to them with an explanatory letter. Once the probate papers have been signed and returned to us, we make the application to the Probate Registry. It usually takes between 3 and 4 weeks for the Probate Registry to issue the Grant of Representation (usually either a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration) to us. When we receive it, we can start to collect in the assets of the estate. We will, if at all possible, invite the Executors/Administrators to sign the withdrawal forms necessary to cash the assets before the Grant of Representation is received, so that we can immediately proceed to collect in the assets when the Grant is in our possession. In some cases, of course, a beneficiary may require an asset to be transferred to him or her rather than cashed and, subject to arrangements having been agreed for the payment of debts of the estate and any legacies due under the Will, we are happy to accommodate such requests. When money is available to us, we shall pay the debts of the estate including (if not already paid) the funeral directors bill. Please note that, if the Executors need to sell a house as part of the administration of the estate, exchange of contracts for the sale of that house cannot take place until the Grant of Representation is available because, without it, the Executors cannot give good title to the house. This does not, however, prevent the Executors from putting the property on the market for sale, before the Grant of Representation has been obtained. Once the debts of the estate have been paid and assuming there is enough money available to cover any future administration expenses, any legacies due under the Will can then be paid. If further money is available and we anticipate the administration of the estate may take some time to conclude, we are then generally happy to make interim payments to beneficiaries who are entitled to the residue of the estate. During the course of the administration of the estate, we have to conclude any income tax and related tax matters with the Inland Revenue. When all administration matters have been concluded, any tax due from the estate has been paid and all appropriate notice periods (as to which see above) have been observed, we are able to conclude the administration of the estate. At that time we will send full and detailed Estate Accounts to the Executors and all beneficiaries. When all concerned have signed, dated and returned one copy of the Accounts to us by way of approval, we will despatch the payments to the beneficiaries. PROBATE COSTS We calculate your costs strictly in accordance with Law Society guidelines. We are entitled to charge on a “time spent” basis, i.e. per letter, telephone call, personal attendance upon you, preparation or perusal time, travel time, etc. In addition we are entitled to charge a percentage based on the value of the estate. If we, as a firm of Solicitors, are the Executors of the deceased’s Will, or one of our Partners is an Executor, the percentage charge is as follows:- 1½% of the deceased’s personal estate at the date of death (i.e. the total estate less the value of any house or other real estate that the deceased owned at the date of death) PLUS ¾% of any real estate. Where we are not the Executors of the Will and no one of our Partners is an Executor of the Will, but we are instructed to act for lay Executors, the percentage charge is as follows:- 1% of the deceased’s personal estate at the date of death (i.e. the total estate less the value of any house or other real estate that the deceased owned at the date of death) PLUS ½% of any real estate At the outset, we shall give you our best estimate of costs based on the information we have at that time. Inevitably, in some cases, the value of assets as we believe them to be when first instructed differs from the value that we find them out to be when we make further enquiries. Indeed in some cases assets only come to light after we have been instructed. In those cases, we shall need to revise our original estimate of costs and we shall let you have that revised estimate as soon as possible. In these cases, we submit an interim bill at the time of making application for Grant of Probate and that bill is payable as soon as sufficient assets are available. Only in exceptional cases would we need to submit a bill prior to Grant of Probate. In most cases, there would only be one interim bill, with the final bill following at the conclusion of the matter. However if a matter becomes particularly protracted then we do reserve the right to raise further interim bills at quarterly intervals after the first interim bill is rendered. If in doubt about the way in which we calculate our charges, at what stage they will be paid or any other aspect arising in respect of our charges, please ask. ANY QUESTIONS? Please remember that we are here to assist you and if you have any questions, you should not hesitate to ask. The intention of this fact sheet is obviously to make you aware of most situations that arise in the administration of an estate, but it is difficult to cover every possibility. Please therefore do not be afraid to seek clarification or advice from us as necessary.