The terms ‘Probate’ and ‘Estate Administration’, are used interchangeably in modern public, as well as legal, parlance. Legally speaking though, probate is term used for the procedure to prove authenticity of a person’s Will, and the Executor(s) of it, after the person of the Will has died.
Alternatively, where there is no Will, or the Will is ‘invalid’, then the Rules of Intestacy apply. The ‘proving’ at this event is of ‘the person’ who will have the authority to deal with the deceased person’s Estate. He is called the ‘administrator’.
After the Will has been proved and the probate authorised, the duty is one of ‘Estate Administration’. That is the job of management and closing down of the deceased person’s affairs.
NB. Probate is not required in every case. For example, when the Estate is less than £5,000 ( albeit many institutions now use £15,000 as that limit ) or if it is composed of mainly joint property, then probate may not be required. That does not however, preclude the need to notify and communicate with all requisite authorities.
Once the Will has been proved and the probate authorised, the duty is one of ‘Estate Administration’. That is the management and closing down of the deceased person’s affairs.
What is a deceased person’s Estate?
When a person dies they leave behind them their wealth and belongings, or their “Estate” as it is called. It includes the summation of all Assets and Debts, that the person was party to and had, including:
- cash and money in a bank or building society account
- shares and investments
- personal property (i.e. their home)
- business property
- personal possessions (e.g. cars, jewellery, art work, antiques)
- money owned to them and money owed by them
If there is a Will, then the Estate will normally be earmarked for the person’s nearest and dearest.
Where there is no Will, or the Will is invalid, then the Estate is handled in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy.
Before the Estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries, all outstanding debts and taxes (including inheritance tax) must be paid.
How do I deal with financial affairs of someone who has died?
1. The DIY approach
You are legally allowed to carry out the whole process yourself. And by doing so you may save the Estate a significant amount of expense.
However, deciding to carry out the probate and administration process yourself is not something that you should undertake lightly. It carries a significant weight of legal responsibility and, is a lot of work.
Even for the simplest Estate you can look forward to many tens of hours over many months to complete the task.
In addition, you are personally liable to the Estate if you make any administrative mistake, or financial mistake, that costs the Estate money!
Therefore, before jumping into the ‘deep end’, sit down and take long hard look at whether it would be more cost effective and less stressful to yourself and the beneficiaries, to give the job to a competent professional. There is much made of ‘on-line help’ for the DIY administrator. However, there is a high risk of landing in serious trouble for want of some good advice. Because you can change an electric fuse in your house, does not qualify you to re-wire the house. That is the kind of difference you have in ‘probate and administration’ to conducting a few occassional household chores.
2. Expert help and advice
The Edmunds and Eve probate and administration services give you a comprehensive handle on the Estate in clear everyday language, whether the task is complex or straight-forward.
You can entrust us to take on the whole job in your name under our Code of Ethics. Professional. Ethical. Competent.
If the Estate is genuinely straight-forward and ‘small’ and you wish to tackle it yourself, then you may economise on expenses by having our expertise guide you over the ‘difficult areas’. The majority will be done by yourself.
We can help you with every aspect that needs attention. We will achieve an effective and efficient conclusion to your task, if you do not have the time or skill, or just are too stressed out by the matter; including:
- Registering the death and associated needs
- Arranging the funeral
- Interpreting and understanding the Will
- When Trusts are included
- When no Will is found ( this is called intestacy)
- Preparing all the forms to apply for Probate or Letters of Administration
- Calculating and paying any inheritance tax liability to HM Revenue and Customs
- Administering the full quota of duty to close down the Estate including notifying all parties of the Estate including insurers, pensions, utilities, banks etc..
We can advise you on every step of the process, and we make sure that all your legal responsibilities are covered.
Is expert help cost effective?
1. Will Challenge and Inter-family Conflict
Sometimes the ‘potential’ beneficiaries of the Estate fall out over how the Estate is to be distributed. They may feel aggrieved or dissatisfied with ‘the gift’ or the proportion of the Estate that they have been gifted. It may be wholly at odds with their expectations due to ‘prior agreements’ or ‘promises’ in lieu of services rendered for example.
If matters become difficult, our services can handle the Contested Will matter. In addition to providing good advice about potential claims against the Estate, we can take on the case to deal with disputes relating to the correct administration of the Estate.
2. Insolvent Estate or Particularly Complex
In certain circumstances an Estate may not have sufficient assets to cover outstanding tax, expenses, bills and other liabilities. This makes Estate administration a much more complex task and requires the service of an experienced professional.
If the Estate is complicated, it is best to get expert advice, particularly where:
- The terms of the Will are not clear
- Part of the Estate is to pass to children under the age of 18
- The person who died has left money or property in a Trust
- The person who died owned land or property abroad ( including Scotland )
- The person who died owned a business
- Anyone is likely to dispute the Will.
How will I know if an Estate is complex?
The lay person does not know what he does not know. Ask for advice. If you would like to know more about how our Probate & Estate Administration Service can help you, then please feel free to contact us on – 0118 9 740 130 – for a confidential discussion, or, send us an email by the menu below and we’ll be in touch shortly.