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August 29th 2017 / BY: Wisteria

Probate – The 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions

What is Probate?

In the UK, Probate is the legal process by which an individual’s assets are dealt with after their death. The process involves a number of tasks and can vary widely depending on the circumstances of an individual when they pass away.

Commonly, the process involves identifying the assets and liabilities of the deceased, establishing if there is a valid Will, completing the legal paperwork, liquidating the assets, paying off the liabilities and tax and then distributing the assets and remaining cash to the beneficiaries.

Do I have to use a lawyer for Probate?

It is not necessary to use a lawyer to deal with probate.

Traditionally, when someone died, the friends and family of the deceased had to choose between doing the work themselves or appointing a solicitor.

Following deregulation by the law society, accountants with a probate qualification and license can also offer this service.

Accountants tend to be better suited to deal with probate work because:

  • Cost – generally accountants are lower cost compared to solicitors
  • Convenience – accountants will generally be able to deal with the income tax and inheritance tax work, as well as the probate work. This means that everything is under one roof with one adviser
  • Service – Probate contains a lot of admin which accountants tend to be suited to deal with.

A lawyer is normally only required where beneficiaries or family members decide to legally challenge the contents of a Will (see below).

What makes a Probate complex?

Probate work generally becomes immediately complex if the deceased had no valid Will when they died – they are said to have died ‘intestate’.

An estate is often complex if there is a challenge to the Will. Where there is a challenge to the Will, this is known as a contentious Probate case, which often results in court action.

Other factors can make a Probate case complex, such as;

  • Individuals die owning and running a business
  • The beneficiaries of a Will are under the age of 18
  • The beneficiaries of a Will cannot be easily located
  • The individual owned foreign assets when they died
  • The individual had a wide range of investments or properties
  • The individual had made lifetime gifts to individuals or trusts

What are the professional fees to deal with a Probate Case?

The fees to deal with an estate vary widely. Of course, the work required to deal with an estate with one property and a bank account is very different to one with multiple properties and businesses.

Generally, fees for a professional adviser tend to start from £3,000 + VAT. Most cases fall in the range of £3,000 – £12,000 + VAT. More complex cases might see costs exceeding £25,000 + VAT.

How long does the Probate process take?

Probate can be a very lengthy process. Legal issues relating to the executors means that the minimum period is 6 months, however more practically the process usually takes 12 months. The most complex cases can take a number of years.

With a methodical and practical approach, the time can be kept to a minimum.

For more information on Wisteria’s probate service, please contact Nick Tagg or Richard Sham on 020 8429 9245.