Sorting out a loved one or close associates’ practical affairs after they pass away is never going to be simple. Wills and probate are just one of the many things that you will have to deal with.
Probate is a word which is used to describe the financial and legal process for dealing with the property, money and assets of a person who has passed away. A wills and probate solicitor will support those who have lost family members or close friends.
No doubt this is going to be a difficult and highly emotionally charged time for those left behind. In addition to this, those left behind will also be tending to a few issues regarding taxation that need to be dealt with when an individual passes away, this could include income tax, capital gains, and inheritance tax.
With this in mind, we have collated some of the key information you need to know in regards to wills and probate to help you make an informed decision about seeking support with this.
What is probate?
When an individual passes away they will often leave behind a property, finances and possessions – this is known as their estate. You will have to figure out who is entitled to what. For this to happen, you will need to have what is referred to as a ‘grant of representation’. This will allow you authority to administer an estate. What form this takes will vary depending on whether or not a will had been written by this person.
If the deceased person did leave a will and appointed an executor (in some cases more than one executor will be named), this person will have to get what is known as a ‘grant of probate’. Although, if there is not a will in place, the next of kin will need to apply for what is known as a ‘grant of letters of administration’. This is pretty common practice and something you will be able to seek support with.
The task of applying for the grant and the documents you’ll require is commonly referred to simply as ‘probate’ – so for the sake of keeping things simple in this guide, this is the term we will use. Probate is the same for everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but if you live in Scotland it will be referred to as ‘confirmation’.
Here we will list some of the tasks that the executors would carry out in regards to probate:
- Gathering the relevant assets, an example being, money left in bank accounts
- Paying of any bills
- Distributing what’s left according to the will
Does everyone require probate?
In short, the answer is no. There are loads of estates that will not have to carry out this process. If the property is jointly-owned and property and money is given to a spouse or civil partner when someone dies, probate will not normally be needed. If you’re uncertain if probate is necessary, seek advice from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
A grant of probate
Prior to an executioner beginning the legal probate process, they need to apply for a grant of probate. This legal document allows them permission to tend to the deceased’s legal estate. Probate will stop once all taxes and debts have been paid and their inheritance has been passed on. If you are the executor and don’t want to apply to probate yourself, you can ask that a solicitor do this on behalf of you.
What situations require a wills and probate solicitor?
Other than the admin and impartial guidance offered and which comes with hiring wills and probate solicitors, there are a few other factors that may need the support and guidance of one. This could include:
- A will being contested in relation of its validity and or if dependants were left out of the will
- The deceased individual has passed away without a leaving a will behind
- The case involves a big estate and complicated details are involved such as trust funds
- The estate in question is bankrupt
- The estate involves a foreign property or assets overseas
- The value of the estate is receiving consistent income
- The overall value of the estate is on the boundary of an inheritance tax threshold
How will the probate process work?
Every will and estate will be different, taking this into consideration, the precise probate process will vary on the instructions left on the will as well as the assets, creditors, and the benefactor of the specific estate. This process involves the executor and will go something like this:
- Gathering up any relevant information regarding the estate’s assets
- Applying for a grant of probate
- Fill out an inheritance tax return and pay any tax which is due
- You will receive a grant of probate
- Repaying any outstanding debts left by the deceased person
- Distribute the rest of the estate in keeping with what is stated in the will
A wills and probate solicitor will be able to assist with any disputes that happen between the executor, benefactors or HMRC.
The different types of will
Wills must meet specific criteria in order for it to be valid. The person who makes a will, will be referred to as the testator, they must be at least eighteen years old and be of sound mind. The testator is then required to pick an executor, which will give them the responsibility of distributing their property after passing away.
They must sign and date this will and this has to be done in the presence of witnesses. As well as this, in this process, there can be a few different types of will. Understanding what type of will is suited or applicable to you can be hard, this is why it is advised that you use a professional solicitor. In broad terms, there are a couple of types of will available:
- A single will – this type of will is the most frequently used and best-known kind of will. This will detail the demands of the deceased person, including their chosen executor as well as any gifted items.
- A mirror will – this is utilised when there is a possibility that you may outlive the person who has made the will.
- A trust will – there are a couple of different types of trust wills. A property trust will be put in place to help you understand how a property you may own is taken care of.
- A living will – this kind of will allows you to express your wishes while fully aware of your decisions if in the future you are unable to make these choices. This is not a legal binding contract but is taken into full consideration by both doctors and solicitors.
Richards & Lewis – Thinking About Your Will or Searching for a Probate Solicitor Near Me? We Can Help
When you sadly pass away, you’ll want your estate to pass on to your friends, family and anyone else you decide. However, in many cases, the estate of people who pass away without a will doesn’t necessarily pass down to its intended recipient. Without the help of wills and probate lawyers, your family may not receive the entirety of your estate and, therefore, your home might need to be sold. In some of the most distressing cases, children may be disinherited entirely.
If you’ve been looking for a probate solicitor to help you execute the will of a deceased friend or relative and need probate of will services, or you are writing a will and need legal advice, look no further. Richard & Lewis are Ebbw Vale’s leading wills and probate solicitors. We can ensure that both the will writing and probate processes are dealt with responsibly and accurately, providing you with the peace of mind you deserve. To find out more, contact us today.