Probate (assistance with an estate after someone has died)

The death of a loved one is a very difficult time emotionally, but there are also many practical issues that need to be dealt with.

Our Probate lawyers can help you deal with all areas of Probate, including arranging the paying of any debts, taxes and expenses from the Estate.

This is a time of personal distress but our compassionate Probate lawyers are here to help you with tackling these sometimes complex tasks.

What is Probate?

Probate is the word used to describe the various matters needing to be dealt with after a person dies.

What is an Estate?

The Estate is the deceased's money, property and possessions.

Who deals with the Probate?

The person who deals with the deceased's Probate is known as the Personal Representative (PR). They are also called an Executor, if the deceased made a Will, or an Administrator if there is no Executor named in the Will or the person died intestate (i.e. without leaving a Will).

How long does Probate take?

The Probate process can be completed relatively quickly or may take several months or even years to complete. The length of the Probate depends on the complexity of the issues involved and the proficiency of the PR.

What if there is no Will?

If there is no Will then after the payment of debts, funeral and testamentary expenses the PR will distribute the Estate in accordance with Intestacy Rules. These rules take into account the rights of a surviving spouse or Civil Partner, children, parents and other close blood relatives. If there is no Will, or no entitled blood relatives then the Crown has a right to the whole Estate.

How is the Estate distributed?

When all the debts and expenses and taxes have been paid the PR will then distribute the residue of the Estate either in accordance with the terms of the deceased's Will, or in accordance with Intestacy Rules.

What happens to the deceased's debts?

Debts (including funeral expenses) are paid out of the deceased’s Estate. Relatives do not have to pay for them out of their own savings. However, if there is no Estate to pay for the funeral, then assistance may be available from a Social Fund Funeral Payment to help with the cost.

The PR is responsible for paying all the debts of the Estate. If the PR did not know the deceased then it is advisable to advertise for creditors (people to whom the deceased has owed money at the time of death). This involves putting formal advertisements in The London Gazette and if there is land in the estate then in a newspaper which has a local circulation in the area where the property is owned. Unknown creditors are given two months in which to make claims.

If advertisements are not placed then the PR may be faced with personally paying claims made after the Estate has been distributed. An example of a claim which may arise is if The Pension Service (DWP) finds that they have overpaid State Pension or Pension Credit and ask for the overpayment to be repaid to them.

Does anything need to be done regarding taxes?

Yes. The PR needs to arrange for the deceased’s Income Tax affairs to be completed to the date of death.

What needs to be done regarding Inheritance Tax?

If there are no exemptions or reliefs then the threshold for paying Inheritance Tax is £325,000.

The PR is obliged to make investigations as to whether the deceased person's Estate included assets held in trust and whether the deceased had made gifts in the seven years before the date of death.

For more information about probate matters, please contact our Wills and Probate team.