What does an estate administration solicitor do?
An estate administration solicitor can guide you through the estate administration process, providing as much or as little help as you need.
Our estate lawyers can:
- Apply for a grant of probate (if there is a will) or letters of administration (if there is not a will).
- Offer you clear advice about your responsibilities as a personal representative (a ‘personal representative’ is an executor of a will or an estate administrator).
- Value the estate.
- Collect and distribute assets in accordance with the will.
- Advise you about income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax.
- Complete and submit tax forms to the HMRC.
Valuing an estate
It is a personal representative’s responsibility to value an estate for inheritance tax purposes. Personal representatives can be personally liable if they make a mistake with a valuation, so it is important to be meticulous.
To estimate the value of an estate, all assets, including foreign property, a person’s estate, business assets, agricultural assets, savings, investments and possessions, must be identified and valued. This means independent valuations must be sought for expensive assets like property, cars and antiques.
To reach a final valuation figure for an estate, debts and expenses such as bills, funeral expenses, and legal fees must be deducted.
If you are a personal representative, our estate planning solicitors can ensure a valuation is correct, which eases the burden at a difficult time.
Tracing debts and assets
An executor or administrator is responsible for tracing assets and debts. This usually means sorting through the deceased’s paperwork to find details of their bank, building society, mortgage company, pension provider, utility companies and more.
When contacting organisations such as banks and utility companies, a personal representative must provide a copy of the death certificate.
All debts and taxes must be paid before assets are distributed to beneficiaries. If a creditor comes forward after an estate has been distributed, a personal representative can be liable for the debt.
If you are a personal representative, you need to take every reasonable step to trace debts to protect yourself. It is advisable to:
Our estate lawyers can help you to trace assets and debts and offer you further advice.
Personal representatives need to keep detailed accounts throughout the estate administration process. As well as showing assets, debts and taxes, accounts should include the costs incurred administering an estate, for example, legal fees and petrol costs.
Once an estate has been distributed to beneficiaries, they should sign a receipt to confirm they have received their inheritance.
Applying for a grant of representation
Before an executor or administrator can deal with someone’s estate, they need a grant of representation from the court. A grant of representation is a legal document that gives authority to administer an estate.
If there is a will, the grant of representation is called a ‘grant of probate’. If there isn’t a will, it is called ‘a grant of letters of administration’.
Applying for a grant of representation involves a large volume of paperwork. In addition, inheritance tax must have been paid before a court will issue a grant of representation.
Our estate administration services can carry out all tasks for you and make the application on your behalf.
Do you always need to apply for probate?
You do not need to apply for probate when:
- An estate is jointly owned by a spouse or civil partner because the estate will automatically pass to the survivor.
- The value of the estate is less than £5000.
- Relevant agencies, such as a bank or building society, have agreed to release funds without a Grant of Probate.
If you do not know whether you need to apply for a Grant of Probate, our specialist probate solicitor can advise you.
What if an estate’s debts are greater than the assets?
If an estate’s debts are greater than the assets, the estate is insolvent. When an estate is insolvent, debts must be paid off in order of priority:
- Secured debts. These are debts secured against a property, such as a mortgage. If there is not enough money to pay secured debts, then money must be shared between creditors in proportion to what is owed.
- Funeral expenses. Expenses for a funeral must be considered ‘reasonable’, taking into account the total debts.
- Probate and estate administration fees. These are the costs incurred administering an estate, which include reasonable legal fees.
- Preferential debts. If the person who died employed someone, their wages are a preferential debt.
- Interest on unsecured loans such as credit cards and bank loans.
- Deferred debts. This includes debts to family and friends.
Our probate solicitors have vast experience assisting with complex estates. We can offer guidance to personal representatives and negotiate with creditors.
What happens if someone dies without making a will?
Many people die without making a will. In fact, more than 1 in 5 people in the UK die intestate.
When someone dies intestate, their next of kin usually administer their estate. When there are no relatives, an estate is managed by HM Treasury, and assets go to the Crown. This means the money goes towards the national debt or to charity, and not the Royal Family.
Administering the estate of a person who has died without a will can be more difficult, but our specialist estate administration solicitors can help. We can also liaise with the HMRC and other organisations on your behalf.
Benefits of hiring an estate administration solicitor
Hiring an estate administration solicitor has several key benefits, including:
- Access to a high level of expertise when you need it. Our probate services offer clear, impartial advice to executors and administrators.
- Access to advice about wills and probate, including what to do if there is no will.
- Lightening the burden of responsibility on your shoulders. As an executor or administrator, you can be held legally responsible if mistakes are made. Having an expert by your side offers you legal protection and peace of mind.
Risks of administering an estate without guidance
As an executor or administrator, you have no legal obligation to seek advice from an estate administration solicitor. However, we strongly recommend you do so.
Here are some risks of administering an estate without a qualified legal professional:
- Legal complications. If you make a mistake administering an estate, this can result in unpleasant legal battles. An estate administration solicitor has the expertise to ensure the process is undertaken correctly and in accordance with the law. In the unlikely event of an error, you will be protected by your solicitor’s public liability insurance.
- Added stress at an already difficult time. Estate administration is extremely challenging, with a considerable amount of paperwork. Our probate solicitors can carry out work on your behalf and offer you guidance throughout.
- Executors and administrators can become involved in disputes. If disagreements arise, we can provide distance between you and the beneficiaries and mediate to resolve conflicts swiftly and amicably.
Why choose QualitySolicitors estate lawyers?
Our estate lawyers have years of experience supporting personal representatives with probate and estate administration. We understand how difficult it is to administer a loved one’s estate when you are grieving. We aim to make the process as straightforward as we can.
We offer a Free Initial Assessment, so you can get advice from an estate administration solicitor free of charge. To arrange your Free Initial Assessment, please call 08082747557 today.
All QualitySolicitors partner firms are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.