Probates, Estates and difficult times

We know how emotionally difficult it can be for many people when administering an estate after losing someone close to them. So we will support you as sympathetically and professionally as we can with our comprehensive probate service. Below, Guardian Solicitors explains what probate is, what you need to do and what we can do for you.

What is probate?

The people you name in your will to administer your estate (the executors) may have to apply for a grant of probate - the legal document confirming that the executors may take ownership and control of your assets (real and personal property). A grant of probate is generally requested by, say, the deceased's banks, building societies, share registrars, pension companies or life insurances companies before they will release funds.

Do I as an executor always need a grant of probate?

Not always. If the deceased has left less than £5,000 and all of his or her possessions were owned jointly with someone else (and therefore pass directly to the co-owner), a grant of probate may not be necessary.

"If the deceased held stocks or shares, insurance policies, or property and/or land, a grant of probate may be needed"

However, to establish if the estate meets these requirements, the executor/administrator should write directly to each institution involved and include copies of the death certificate and will in order to gain further information about the deceased’s assets.

If the deceased held stocks or shares, insurance policies, or property and/or land (held in their sole name or as tenants in common with another person), a grant of probate may be needed.

What can our probate service do for you?

We will contact all organisations (such as banks and mortgage companies) linked to the deceased person’s assets and liabilities (debts such as funeral expenses or utility bills). We will check if there is enough money to meet all requirements and then assess the estate’s value for tax purposes, meet any liabilities and then distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries in the will. We will save you as much time, money and heartache as we can and settle your loved one’s estate fairly and efficiently.

To get a more detailed, step-by-step account, please read on…

For help and advice on estate management or to arrange an initial meeting, please call us at Guardian Solicitors on 0203 301 6600 or email info@guardiansolicitors.co.uk

High Street Law Practice - Guardian Solicitors, Hertfordshire and London

Probate consultation

Many clients prefer a face-to-face consultation to get answers to all their questions and fully understand the probate. It can also offer them peace of mind during what can be a very difficult time.

Helping clients through this often painful process is one of the main reasons we founded Guardian Solicitors. We always want to help and support you as much as we can. If you’d like a consultation, please call us on 0203 301 6600 or email us at: info@guardiansolicitors.co.uk

What is intestacy?

If someone dies without making a valid will, they are said to have died “intestate”. As such, their estate’s assets will be inherited and distributed according to intestacy rules.

"If someone dies without making a valid will, they are said to have died ‘intestate"

Who inherits the estate under intestacy rules?

The Administration of Estate Act 1925 sets out how an estate is distributed when someone dies intestate. It will be distributed based on the people related to that person of whole or half blood on their death. As follows:

1) A single person:
The entire estate is distributed in the following order of priority:

Surviving children of whole or half blood and including adopted children;

Surviving parents;

Surviving brothers and sisters (if deceased, to their children; and if no children, to the deceased's nieces or nephews);

Surviving half-brothers and half-sisters;

Surviving grandparents;

Surviving aunts and uncles (but if deceased then to their children, if any);

If no cousins, it goes to the Crown (the government).

Please note that the above rules apply even when a person dies and they have a surviving partner. Intestacy rules do not provide for unmarried couples, regardless of how long they have been together.

2. Married or in civil partnership but with no children



When a person dies intestate while married but with no children, the entire estate is distributed as follows:

"The rules of intestacy are complex but very relevant because many people fail to make a will"

The surviving spouse gets the first £450,000 plus goods, all personal chattels and half of the remainder. The other half is distributed to the deceased’s parents - if none, it goes to their brothers and sisters and, if any of the brothers and sisters have died, to their children.
But if none of the deceased’s family is alive to inherit, the surviving spouse inherits everything.

3. Married couples with children

The entire estate is distributed as follows:

The surviving spouse gets the first £250,000 plus goods and all personal chattels. Half of the remainder goes to the deceased's children immediately (or on trust until they are 18). The other half goes to the children but the surviving spouse gets a lifetime interest – that means they can spend the income but not touch the capital.

The rules of intestacy are complex but very relevant because many people fail to make a will and families are left to administer an intestate estate.

If you have any questions or would like a consultation, please Guardian Solicitors on 0203 301 6600 or email us at: info@guardiansolicitors.co.uk

Identifying beneficiaries

If a person dies intestate without leaving any immediate family, finalizing who benefits from what is rarely straightforward. The appointed representative to the estate (the administrator) will need to research the intestate's paternal and maternal family trees. The chance of all potentially entitled persons being in contact with the intestate at the time of death is remote.


"Identifying and locating the descendants of all uncles and aunts on both sides can be a huge task"

Sometimes the intestate has been in touch with all members on one side of their family but not the other. Identifying and locating the descendants of all uncles and aunts on both sides can be a huge task.

What happens if a named beneficiary has already died?

Then there is “partial intestacy” - another common situation where a will exists but the intended beneficiary has died before the testator without any provision made for this.
 
However, whether it be a full or partial intestacy, Guardian Solicitors has access to probate genealogists who can prepare a family tree and thus identify and locate the surviving beneficiaries to the estate on your behalf.

For further information or a consultation please call Guardian Solicitors on 0203 301 6600 or email us at: info@guardiansolicitors.com

Our intestacy services

When someone dies without making a will and the estate is intestate, “letters of administration” must be applied for. Guardian Solicitors Services can conduct all the formalities on behalf of the estate, including applying for the grant of letters of administration.

Who can apply for letters of administration?

Applicants are relatives (if any) of the deceased in the correct order of priority as follows:

  • The husband, wife or registered civil partner of the person who has died (but not their unmarried or unregistered partners);
  • Their children (aged over 18) or their children's descendants (grandchildren, if they are over 18);
  • The deceased's parents;
  • The deceased’s brothers or sisters with the same mother and father, or descendants of the brothers or sisters;
  • Their half-brothers or half-sisters (who had either the same mother or the same father) or their descendants;
  • Their grandparents;
  • Their uncles and aunts “of the whole blood” or their descendants;
  • Their uncles and aunts “of the half blood” or their descendants;
  • The Crown.

What does administering an estate involve?

In brief, we’ll identify the people entitled to apply for letters of administration, contact all organisations (such as banks and mortgage companies) linked to the deceased person’s holdings at time of death to . We’ll check if there is enough money to meet all requirements and then assess the estate’s value for tax purposes, meet any liabilities and distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries in the will. To get a detailed step-by-step account, please click here.

What is a trust?

A trust may be created under the terms of a will or as a result of the rules of intestacy. Guardian Solicitors offers a trust administration service in which we oversee the assets held within a trust. The trust’s beneficiary is then vested with limited rights according to the terms of the trust. 
The beneficiary may have the right to use items within the trust but not to sell or transfer them; he or she may also have limited usage rights and restrictions on what they may do with the assets held in the trust.

Who is responsible for a trust?

When a trust is created, besides naming the beneficiary or the person who is entitled to use the trust assets, a trustee must also be named. He or she is responsible for trust administration, i.e. protecting the trust’s assets and ensuring they are used according to the wishes of the trust’s creator.

What does it involve?

"People may often create a trust in which money is left to a child and distributed to pay educational expenses"

The nature of trust administration will vary depending on the type of trust. For example, people may often create a trust in which money is left to a child and distributed to pay educational expenses or becomes available when the child reaches a certain milestone. Here, trust administration means ensuring the assets are protected until the child reaches maturity and/or ensuring the money in the trust is used only for qualified educational expenses.

Trustees cannot divert assets from the trust into their own name, put the assets at risk in any way, or otherwise interfere with the purpose of the trust as determined by its creator;
 
trustees should never take their responsibilities lightly in administering the trust correctly.

Guardian Solicitors have the experience and knowledge to guide and advise and in some cases we are appointed trustees. Our experienced staff will constantly update you on the progress of the administration of the estate and will always be on hand to deal with any queries you have.

What happens if the taxman disagrees with a valuation?

When, in certain cases, the Inland Revenue does not accept the valuation of properties in the estate it will ask the district valuer’s office for a separate valuation.

  • We will then negotiate with the district valuer to establish agreed valuations for probate purposes;
  • Instruct an accountant to prepare and submit the income tax and capital gains returns for the estate and its beneficiaries;
  • Release funds from the estate to settle all outstanding debts and liabilities that the estate may have;
  • Where relevant complete appropriate stock and transfer forms for the shareholdings in the estate;
  • Prepare the cash, distribution and estate accounts to be signed and approved by the administrators;
  • Administer a trust or life interest that may be created under the rules of Intestacy;
  • Get the estate accounts approved and distribute the estate to the beneficiaries under intestacy rules.

The above is a non-exhaustive summary of Guardian Solicitors’ services. We have the experience, knowledge and skills to advise you and act on your behalf regarding the administration of any estate.