Probate & Estate Administration
The word “probate” is often used to mean the whole process of administering the estate of a person who has died. In fact, it just refers to the process of proving a Will (which ends with obtaining a Grant of Probate). That is why Gilbert Stephens prefers to refer to “Estate Administration”, which covers the whole process and includes dealing with the estates of those who have died without a valid Will.
The law provides that any estate worth more than £5,000.00 should be administered by those authorised by a Grant of Representation issued by the Probate Registry. The Grant of Representation is likely to be:
- A Grant of Probate, where the deceased left a valid Will; or
- A Grant of Letters of Administration, where the deceased died without a valid will in place.
It is the Grant of Representation that proves who is entitled to administer a deceased person’s estate. A Grant of Probate of a Will confirms the validity of both the Will and the appointment of executors by the Will, which is why the process of obtaining a Grant of Probate is called “proving a Will”. A Grant of Letters of Administration appoints people as administrators of the estate of a person who died without a valid Will.
In fact, many estates can be administered without a Grant of Representation being needed. This can be because the deceased owned all his or her assets jointly with someone else in a manner which means that the co-owner automatically inherits each asset, or because banks and other financial institutions waive their right to insist on seeing a Grant of Representation before dealing with the people who present themselves as having a right to administer the estate. The important point here is that if you take on the administration of an estate, whether or not you obtain a Grant of Representation, you are still required to submit a return to HMRC for Inheritance Tax and pay whatever Inheritance Tax is due. Failure to do so can lead to financial penalties and interest can be incurred on any tax which is not paid on time.
The role of an executor is to ensure that the deceased person’s estate is properly administered lawfully and in accordance with the Will. Where there is no Will the people appointed by the court (called “administrators”) have the same duty to administer the estate lawfully and in accordance with the statutory rules which govern who inherits the estate and which are found in the Administration of Estates Act 1925. Essentially the process is the same for both executors and administrators but executors have some authority to act following the death of the deceased and before they obtain a Grant of Probate, but administrators have no right to administer the estate until they have been granted a Grant of Letters of Administration.
Assuming all goes well the administration of an estate is a managerial process requiring simply knowledge of the relevant law and the various taxes that may need to be paid. The level of complexity is governed by the number, nature and value of the assets and liabilities. Matters can get considerably more complicated where things go wrong, and many things can go wrong.
Where claims arise against an estate there will be additional legal issues to be dealt with both to protect the executors personally and to protect the interests of those due to inherit. Gilbert Stephens has been administering estates for well over a hundred years and the accumulated experience of our Probate and Estates Team adds up to even more than that. We are all well versed in the requirements of estate administration including dealing with estate where litigation is needed or claims are made against the estate. The Gilbert Stephens Litigation Team can assist where needed.
We are very fortunate also to have the help of the qualified Independent Financial Advisors of our Financial Services company, Gilbert Stephens Financial Services Limited, to help us with investments and financial aspects of Estate Administration. They can also help those who inherit with the prudent investment of their inheritances.
An Estate Administration will typically involve:
- Registering the death;
- Arranging the funeral;
- Verifying and valuing the assets and liabilities of the deceased;
- Dealing with the deceased’s home (including insurance, utility bills, Council Tax etc);
- Returning passports, driving licences and other similar documents;
- Completing a return for Inheritance Tax (IHT205 for smaller estates and IHT400 for larger estates);
- Obtaining a Grant of Representation;
- Cashing in, transferring or selling the assets;
- Clearing the house dealing with a sale or the termination of the deceased’s tenancy;
- Paying off all the debts of the deceased;
- Finalising pensions (claiming arrears and returning overpayments);
- Finalising the deceased’s lifetime Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax affairs;
- Dealing with the Income Tax and Capital Gains tax liabilities of the estate;
- Dealing with all Inheritance Tax issues;
- Paying legacies;
- Distributing gifts of specific items;
- Preparing estate accounts; and
- Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries who are entitled to inherit.
The process of administering an estate can be complicated by issues such as:
- Completing claims or litigation which the deceased was involved in;
- Dealing with trusts where the deceased was a beneficiary (which may affect the amount of Inheritance Tax payable following his or her death);
- Dealing with trusts where the deceased was a trustee;
- Dealing with any claims brought against the estate by ordinary claimants and creditors or from those unhappy with the terms of the deceased’s Will who wish to invalidate the Will or simply receive a bigger share of the estate;
- Dealing with the deceased’s business; or
- Dealing with overseas assets.
Why choose us
The Gilbert Stephens Probate and Estates Team are well versed in dealing with all these complications.
Gilbert Stephens is happy to relieve executors and administrators of the whole burden of Estate Administration and we do this regularly for many of our clients. We are also happy to assist and advise on any particular aspect (such as Inheritance Tax or obtaining a grant of representation). We can advise both those administering an estate and those benefiting from it on any issue with regard to any deceased estate.
Our partners are the executors of a large number of estates and we are always happy to be appointed as executors so that you can have the comfort of knowing that after you pass away your estate will be in good hands and that your Will will be put into effect exactly as you would wish.
Please get in touch
Email: or contact our Probate and Estate Administration team.