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Grants of Probate

After someone has died, if they have made a Will, it should say who is to be the executor(s), that is the person or people who will close down accounts, realise assets, pay off debts and any taxes due and distribute the estate between the beneficiaries. Usually the executor(s) will have to obtain a Grant of Probate to be able to deal with the assets. If there is no Will, then the deceased's estate will be divided up by law according to the rules of intestacy and will go to surviving relatives in a particular order. Instead of executors, certain classes of relatives are entitled to apply for a "Grant of Letters of Administration" so that they can deal with the assets as the "administrators".

Unless the financial affairs of someone who has died are very simple and the amount of money involved small, it is best to instruct a Solicitor to deal with the winding up of the estate. This is particularly true when there are a number of people, often relatives, who stand to inherit the estate. It is quite common for resentments to surface and disputes arise and since all beneficiaries should agree the final accounts, if this can't be achieved, it can make it difficult or impossible for the executors or administrators to finalise the winding up of an estate leaving the case in limbo. If an impartial Solicitor is dealing with the winding up of the estate, then it is far less likely that he or she would be distrusted as a sibling or other relative may be.

Executors or administrators who deal with the winding up of an estate themselves may not keep adequate records and instead of opening a special account to handle the deceased's money, they may muddle up the deceased's money with their own so that it becomes impossible to tell what money came from where and what interest was earned on the deceased's money. A Solicitor on the other hand would be legally obliged to keep detailed accounts.

Since it is unlikely that a Solicitor would be willing to take over the winding up of an estate which was in turmoil at a later stage with possibly inadequate records having been kept, it is best to instruct a Solicitor from the outset.

Also if the estate will or might attract inheritance tax (IHT), it is best to instruct a Solicitor to make sure that the assets are presented correctly to HMRC and that the correct amount is paid. If a Solicitor does not deal with the general winding up of an estate, then it can be difficult later if a property forming part of the estate has to be sold or transferred. Any Solicitor instructed to deal with the sale would want to make sure that the property's value was accurately disclosed to HMRC and that the correct amount of IHT was paid, since a Solicitor can otherwise be personally charged with any unpaid or underpaid IHT later. It is obviously more straightforward therefore if the Solicitor deals with the winding up of the estate in the first place.

Another good reason to instruct a Solicitor is so that appropriate tax advice can be given to minimise the tax liability and in some cases plan ahead for what may happen in the future.

Also if people apply for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration themselves, the process is often far more complicated than if a Solicitor is instructed to deal with it because of the way the probate office deals with members of the public. Solicitors take this burden away from people.

For experienced solicitors who can help with all will & probate matters, call us on 01206 322763