What is Probate?
When a person dies, someone must deal with their affairs. This is called ‘administering the estate’.
In 2014 accountants were given the right to offer non-contentious probate services. Allowing accountants to provide a probate service can save time, as solicitors may have to get in contact with an accountant for financial information on the deceased at some point.
We can also assist you in the preparation of any personal tax returns which are required up to the date of death, and the tax returns which are required to pay any Inheritance Tax, which may be required before the Grant of Probate can be issued.
Losing a loved one is always a difficult and upsetting experience. Having to deal with administrative responsibilities associated with the death can add to this particularly challenging time.
At HPH everyone dealing with Probate has first-hand, personal experience of handling the affairs of a loved one who has died. This means we understand what an emotional process this can be and are here to hold your hand throughout the whole process.
If the person who has died leaves a Will
If the person who has died leaves a Will, it will usually name one or more people to act as the executors of the Will – that is, to administer their estate. You do not have to act just because you have been named in the Will.
If you are named as an executor of a Will you may need to apply for a Grant of Probate.
A Grant of Probate is an official document which the executors may need to administer the estate. It is issued by a section of the court known as The Probate Registry.
If there is no Will
If there is no Will (known as dying intestate) the process is more complicated. An application for a grant of letters of administration (an official document, issued by the court, which allows administrators to administer the estate) will need to be made.
The person to whom letters of administration is granted is known as the administrator. The administrator is the person who has the legal right to deal with the affairs of the person who has died and is determined by a set order of priority.
The administrator will usually be a close relative of the person who has died, if there is one. There may be more than one person who has an equal right to do this. We will be able to provide you with information on the set order of priority.
Some more legal terms you may come across
Personal Representatives (PRs)
This means executors or administrators. If there is more than one personal representative, they must work together to decide matters between them. Disagreements between personal representatives can cause expensive delays.
Grants of Representation
This includes Grants of Probate (when there is a Will) and Grants of Letters of Administration (when there is no Will). Often people just refer to Probate, even if there is no Will.
When a Grant of Representation is needed
A Grant of Representation is not always needed, for example if the person who died:
- has left less than £5,000 in total; or
- owned everything jointly with someone else.
However, some financial organisations may require a grant before giving you access even to a small amount of money.
Usually, a Grant of Representation will be needed when the person who has died left:
- more than £5,000;
- stocks or shares;
- a house or land; or
- certain insurance policies.
How to get a grant
We can apply for the Grant of Representation on your behalf and use an electronic system designed for firms such as ours.
You can also apply for a Grant in person at:
- the Principal Registry (Family Division) at the London Probate Registry (tel. 0845 302 0900 or visit https://www.gov.uk/applying-for-probate/apply-for-probate); or
- a district probate registry in cities and many large towns (tel. 0845 302 0900 to find your nearest probate registry and to get an information pack).
If you apply in person, you will need an interview with the registry and need to fill in an application form and a tax form. There is a fee for this. Staff at the registry can help you fill in the forms.
Responsibilities of Personal Representatives
Personal Representatives are responsible for making sure that the estate is administered correctly. If there is a Will, the Personal Representative must make sure that the wishes of the person who has died, as set out in their Will, are followed. If there is no Will, you must follow the rules of intestacy (set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925). You should ask us to explain these.
Personal Representatives are also responsible for finding out if Inheritance Tax is due as a result of a person’s death. If it is, the Personal Representative has to make sure that it is paid.
Whether Inheritance Tax needs to be paid can depend on:
- how much the property and belongings of the deceased person were worth when they died;
- the value of any gifts that they gave before they died, and to whom they gave these gifts;
- the value of certain trusts from which the dead person benefited; or
- which people benefit under the Will or under the rules of intestacy (the beneficiaries).
You can find out more by looking at the HM Revenue & Customs website at www.hmrc.gov.uk or by asking us.
Why choose HPH?
For our clients, we will already have detailed knowledge of finances and assets, so are well placed to assist. For those who are not our clients, we are able to provide a sensitive, cost-efficient service at a difficult time. HPH Probate Services Limited is also able to act as an Executor.
Some accountancy firms are licenced to undertake a limited amount of the work involved in the probate process: HPH Probate Services Limited is fully authorised to do ALL that is required.
(HPH Probate Services Limited is authorised by the ICAEW to carry out the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate in England and Wales. Details about our probate registration can be viewed at icaew.com/probate, under reference number C004264253.)
How long will it take?
Dealing with the affairs of someone who has died can take a long time. It is not unusual for it to take up to a year, perhaps longer if things are not straightforward. Many organisations may be involved in the process, for example, banks, building societies, insurance companies and HM Revenue & Customs.
The estate cannot be dealt with until all claims to it have been received. Individuals have six months from the date when probate was granted to make claims against the estate.
Other things that may affect the time taken are:
- whether the financial affairs of the person who died were in order;
- what the person who died owned and where it is;
- whether the person who died had an interest in a business or a farm;
- what the Will or the rules of intestacy say;
- whether there are any legal disputes (claims against the estate or claims by the estate);
- whether Inheritance Tax needs to be paid; and making sure that all HM Revenue & Customs files are closed and that matters relating to income tax, benefits agencies and pensions have been sorted out.
Arguments between family members, beneficiaries or personal representatives can delay matters. Any disagreements must be sorted out before the affairs of the person who died can be settled.
- Introductory meeting, scoping of work and agreement of terms
- Information gathering
- Completion of Inheritance Tax Return
- Application for Grant
- Collection and distribution of assets
- Final estate account
How much will it cost?
Unlike some solicitors and banks, who will often charge on a percentage of the assets, HPH Probate Services Limited works on a clear fee structure, agreed in advance. We will provide you with a written estimate of our fees and you can choose to pay a Fixed Fee or, if you prefer, to pay an hourly rate (average £150/hour + VAT).
For a simple estate our fees to obtain a Grant of Probate would be between £600 and £1,200, including VAT at 20%. This would include doing all the work necessary to gather information about the estate assets and liabilities and making the application for the Grant of Probate.
After Probate has been obtained, the costs of administering the collection and distribution of the assets, including reporting any estate income and gains to HMRC, would be between £720 and £1,320, including VAT at 20%.
You would also need to pay disbursements, which are amounts we pay on your behalf and then recover from you. As a minimum you would need to pay a disbursement of £155 for the Application Fee but typically you would also choose to protect against claims from unknown creditors by placing notices in The London Gazette (£75) and another, local paper. Some disbursements may attract VAT.
Our fees as set out above do not include:
- dealing with the sale or transfer of any property in the estate; or
- additional work required if there:
- is no valid Will
- is more than one property
- are more than 4 bank or building society accounts
- are other intangible assets (such as shareholdings, stocks or bonds)
- are any assets held outside of the UK
- are any provisions for the creation of a Trust within the Will
- are more than 6 beneficiaries
- are disputes between beneficiaries and/or executors on the division of assets
- is Inheritance Tax payable or the executors need to submit a full account to HMRC
- are claims made against the estate
The Probate Team at HPH comprises:
Adrian is director of the HPH Probate Service Team and is fully authorised by the ICAEW for the delivery of non-contentious probate and estate administration work.
Robert is a technical member of the Team, working under Adrian’s supervision, assisting him in the delivery of probate services.
Yvonne is the office manager, working under Adrian’s supervision.
For more information
If you would like to know more, either as part of your own planning or because you have a loved one who has died, please contact Adrian Rodaway on 01904 611164 or download our Guide to Probate.