Legal Support, Wills & Probate
We understand how difficult it must be in a time of grief to have to deal with the estate of the deceased. An executor is often appointed and named in the will; and it will be their role is to oversee the distribution of the deceased estate. The executor could be a solicitor but could also be a close member of the family.
The estate of the deceased is considered to be everything owned by them at the time of their death. This can include all their finances, which refers to all cash, bank or building society accounts and any life insurance policies. It also refers to any money indebted to them, shares, real estate, and any personal possessions.
Any debts owed by the deceased should be paid for first before the rest of the estate is divided up among the beneficiaries named in the will. An executor or administrator will handle the estate from being responsible for the paying of taxes and debts to the distribution of the estate among the named beneficiaries.
Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/probate-estate
Informing governmental departments and local authorities of a death
Once the executor or administrator is in charge of the probate, they are required to inform the following governmental authorities of the death:
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- Passport Office
- Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
- The local council authority where the deceased lived
- Public sector or armed forces pension schemes
- Alternatively; they could use the Tell Us Once service
Further information on who needs to know can be found in our guide here.
Debt - owed by the estate to creditors will be recovered directly from the estate. However, relatives are not obliged to pay off the debt from their own personal savings if debts cannot be recovered from the estate. It’s worth checking if they had taken out any insurance to cover any debts outstanding at the time of their death. If the debt was from a joint account, the debt is required to be repaid by the surviving account holder. Anyone who was living with your loved one is expected to continue to pay any outstanding household bills and council tax.
Probate - is the process of proving that a will is legal and valid in a court of law. Before the estate and wishes of the deceased can be executed, the will needs to be proven to be legal and binding in probate court.
Executor – is the person responsible for overseeing the last will and testament of the person who has died. There is no qualification legally required for a person to be an executor. Ideally your chosen person or people should be comfortable with carrying out all the responsibilities that being an executor of a will entails.
Otherwise, a probate solicitor could be hired to take on this role. Either way they will need to complete the probate process, after which they will receive a grant of probate so they can access the finances of the deceased and administer the estate. However, if a person died without leaving a will, the executor will need a grant of letters of administration in order to proceed.
To apply for probate - fill in the necessary forms and send them to your local Probate Registry. The probate fees and the probate registry procedure can be found here. Registry cannot grant probate, the executor won’t be able to access the finances of the person who has died. They may need to re-apply and provide further evidence to support their case.
Some people prefer to manage their loved one’s estate by themselves as it would save on solicitor’s fees. However, when the estate is complex, relationships are difficult, or to save time and effort you may prefer to hire a probate solicitor. They are also experts in their field and can ensure all requirements are correctly met.
Solicitor and estate administration fees can be paid from the money in the estate. Depending on the probate solicitor, the fees may be charged per hour or as a flat fee. It may be worth contacting several solicitors to compare their fees before making a final decision.
Other Useful Links in relation to Legal Support, Wills and Probate:
- Government bereavement support - https://www.gov.uk/browse/births-deaths-marriages/death
- Law Society Information – for dealing with someone’s affairs when they die https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/dealing-with-someones-affairs-when-they-die/
- Legal Support - database of solicitors, including those that offer legal aid https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/
- Probate Advice from the Government - https://www.gov.uk/probate-estate
- For the most up to date Inheritance Tax advice go to: https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax