Common Concerns about Probate

18 September 2017

Got concerns or questions about Probate? You are not alone. Probate is complicated so in this article we address some common concerns and answer some common questions about Probate and the administration of a deceased person’s Estate. This information applies in England and Wales.

The administration of a deceased person’s Estate often requires someone to be appointed by the High Court. This person is called the Personal Representative and is normally an Executor appointed in the Will, or the next of kin if there is no Will. The document that provides the legal authority to the Personal Representatives is called a Grant of Representation. The process of obtaining that Grant is commonly called Probate.

Answers to Common Concerns about Probate

Can the funeral expenses be paid for by the Estate?

Yes, when you choose our Probate Complete Service we can pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing that the Estate has sufficient assets which can be sold to repay our costs in due course. We take full responsibility for obtaining the Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excluding VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs. For details see Probate Complete Service.

How long will it take to wind-up the Estate?

This is probably the most common question. The answer depends on the complexity of the Estate to be wound-up. Many factors determine how complex an Estate is, but the biggest factors are whether or not there is a Will, whether the deceased had a house that needs to be sold, and whether Inheritance Tax (IHT) needs to be paid. For example:

  • A very simple Estate with a straightforward Will and only cash assets might be dealt within four or five months
  • A more complex Estate with a family tree to verify, cash assets and a property to sell could take between nine to twelve months to administer
  • A very complex Estate with a large number of assets, multiple properties to sell or Inheritance Tax to pay can often take over a year to fully administer

Ultimately no two Estates are the same and there are all sorts of factors that contribute to the amount of time is takes to obtain Probate, finalise Estate accounts and pay the beneficiaries. Our Probate team can assess an Estate and provide an estimated timescale at the outset, as well as advising of potential pitfalls along the way; and provide you with a fixed fee Probate quote.

When can I sell the house?

Estates with properties to sell inevitably take longer to wind-up. Until a Grant of Representation is granted and legal authority obtained by the Executor or Estate Administrator, the sale of a house cannot be completed. That said, the Personal Representative can still market the property, accept an offer and appoint Conveyancers to manage the sale in the meantime. If required our in-house Probate Conveyancing Solicitors can arrange to market the property and manage the sale.

I can’t find the Will

It can be problematic if a Will is known to have been prepared but cannot be found. It’s possible that it has it been lodged with the deceased’s Solicitors, bank or accountant for safe-keeping. When you choose our Probate Complete Service we will make full enquiries and will check with branches in the area the deceased lived in.

Enquiries can also be made at the Record-Keepers Department at the Principal Probate Registry, where Wills can be deposited for safe keeping. Even if a Will is found there could be later Wills in existence and so a thorough search must be made. If all else fails, we can sometimes prove a copy of a Will if the original has been lost.

In the event that no Will was made, all potential beneficiaries need to be located and their right to inherit under the Law of Intestacy validated. We can assist in employing a professional Genealogist to trace and verify large families, or where contact has been lost between family members. 

I don’t know all the assets owned by the deceased

Finding and valuing all the assets (and ascertaining the extent of liabilities and debts) is an essential part of the Estate administration process. This is because an account of the Estate must be provided to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if a Grant of Representation is to be issued. Estates can have all sorts of assets such as shareholdings, unit trusts, life assurance policies, pension plans and other investments.

Our Probate Solicitors can undertake a search of the Unclaimed Asset Register to assist in locating missing assets. In larger Estates, we can also undertake a Financial Asset Search which can reveal even more assets previously unknown to the Personal Representative. Once the Grant of Representation has been obtained, assets such as bank accounts and life policies can be cashed in and shareholdings either cashed in or transferred over to the beneficiaries on request.

Can I claim expenses as a Personal Representative?

A Personal Representative may have already settled some Estate bills, including the funeral, and will be entitled to reimbursement from the Estate. Similarly, other expenses such as petrol costs can also be reimbursed from the Estate.

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