April 17, 2020

Probate is the legal term given to the process of dealing with a person’s estate after they have died when there is a Will in place, although it is often used – albeit incorrectly – to describe any estate administration.

Who conducts Probate?

Probate is typically undertaken by the Executor(s) of the Will or, where there is no Will, by the people entitled to do so by the Intestacy Rules. The general term for these roles is ‘Personal Representative(s)’. Obtaining a Grant of Representation allows the Personal Representative(s) to gather the assets of the deceased, and distribute them in line with the wishes laid out in the Will, or the Intestacy Rules where there is no Will.

Grant of Representation

Probate is not required in all instances.  For example, where the deceased has left a minimal amount of funds (a few thousand pounds or less) and personal possessions it is unlikely that a Grant of Representation will be required. However, where more significant assets are left, or in more complex situations, a Grant is likely to be needed to administer the estate effectively.

When will a Grant of Representation be required?

Such situations include:

  • Where the deceased has left significant funds in a bank account or building society (usually over £50,000)
  • Where the deceased owned an ISA or Stocks and Shares
  • Where the deceased owned property solely.
  • Where funds need to be released under death benefit
  • Where there are business interests
  • Where there are assets abroad

Probate can be a daunting task, which often involves exhaustive enquiries into debts, assets, pensions or lifetime gifts.

“DIY” Probate Services can appear tempting, but an understandable lack of knowledge in technical legal areas can often lead to problems, mistakes and delays. In turn this creates pressure, liability and stress at what is already a difficult time.

Common mistakes of “DIY” Probate

What at the beginning can seem a manageable task can lead a Personal Representative, trying to do a legal role without advice or knowledge  about the liability of the beneficiaries of the estate or to HM Revenue & Customs.

Common mistakes of “DIY” Probate include:

  • Undervaluing the estate for Inheritance Tax purposes. This can result in additional capital gains tax
  • Failing to identify or locate all assets
  • Failing to identify beneficiaries who are entitled to inherit
  • Failing to pay Inheritance Tax within the strict time deadlines
  • Paying too much tax due to unfamiliarity with complex rules
  • Failing to implement a Trust contained in the Will – this is a very common scenario. Ignoring a Trust and the obligations that go with it will not make it go away.
  • Failing to pay gifts to children correctly
  • Failing to pay all the deceased’s debts or, where an estate is insolvent, in their correct order

Perhaps even more stressful, “DIY” Probate can cause mistrust between family members and could result in greater costs to the estate to put things right.

Beware of online probate services

Online probate services can seem attractive, but scratch the surface, and you could find they are all just trying to sell you something.

Terry Jones experienced Probate solicitors offer a personal service that works for you and your family, in your circumstances. You’ll have a designated point of contact for all your questions and queries, which will be managed with professionalism and care. We can also recommend trusted tax and financial services advisors that will help you maximise the value of a trust or estate.

Usually, we are available in our offices for face-to-face advice; however given the current government advice on social distancing, we have had to temporarily close our offices to the public. We are still available for advice and support during our usual working hours via video call or the telephone.

Fixed pricing

For many years we have offered a clear pricing policy, with fixed fees. Terry Jones  can support you  with all aspects of Probate, from obtaining the Grant of Probate on your behalf to administering the full estate. Our professionals care about the service we give and we are fully insured and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

While the price of “DIY” or online probate services may seem more attractive the additional stress, countless hours on the phone and potential additional tax liability is something that you don’t want to worry while you are grieving for a loved one.

Our solicitors can manage the process from start to finish, dealing with all enquires and managing the finances, freeing you up to spend time with those who are important to you.

Our experienced Trusts & Estate team at Terry Jones Solicitors is here to support you at this difficult time with the expertise you expect and the compassion you deserve.

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