Each one of us should make a will as we all care about what happens to our loved ones after we die. Without a will, legislation directs who inherits, so your friends, favourite charities and relatives may get nothing.
It is important to make a Will if you are not married to your partner. This is because the law does not recognise partners as having the same rights as husbands and wives or civil partners. Therefore, even if you have been together for many years your partner may be left with nothing if you have not made a Will.
If you have any children that may still be under 18 when you die, you may need to name someone as their legal guardian. A Will is also vital if you have dependants who may not be able to care for themselves. Without a Will there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for your dependants if you die.
Legal advice should be considered in particular circumstances, for example, if someone is dependent upon you financially, they can make a claim on your estate.
Remember that if you have had a Will drawn up, some changes to your circumstances can make all or part of that Will invalid or inadequate, for example marriage, separation or divorce. This means that you must review your Will on a regular basis.
A Will enables you to appoint as Executors these are people who carry out your wishes as set out in your Will after your death. These could be relatives, friends or a professional such as a solicitor. An ideal combination would be a close friend or family member who may be familiar with your financial affairs together with a solicitor.
You may also require advice on:
When a person dies someone has to deal with their affairs this is called, administering the estate. If the person who has died leaves a Will, it will usually name people to act as Executors. The Executors will need to apply for a Grant of Probate. This is an official document which the Executors will need before they can collect in any assets. Probate is issued by a section of the Court known as the Probate Registry.
Where there is no Will the process is more complicated. This is known as dying intestate. The Administration of Estates Act 1925 sets out who has the legal right to deal with the affairs of the person who has died. This person is known as an Administrator and they can apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This is an official document issued by the Court which allows the estate to be administered.
Did you know that a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration is not always needed? For example, if the person who died has left less than £5,000 in total or owned everything jointly with someone else. Sometimes some Banks and Building Societies may agree to pay funds to an Executor or Administrator without a Grant of Administration or Probate. We can check whether this applies to you.
A Grant of Administration or a Grant of Probate will be needed where the person who has died left more than £5,000, stocks or shares, a house or land or certain insurance policies.
We can offer varying degrees of assistance depending on the complexity of the estate of the person who has died. If the estate is relatively simple and straightforward we will tell you how to apply for a Grant in person. You will have to go for an interview at a Probate Registry in London or Oxford and fill in an application form and a tax form. The Probate Registry will charge a fee for this. In the event that you would like us to act on your behalf to deal with the whole of the administration of the estate, we will provide with a written estimate of our costs and explain to you the procedure involved in applying for a Grant of Probate and collecting in the assets and paying off any liabilities before distributing the estate in accordance with the deceased´s wishes, or under the intestacy rules if the person who died has not left a Will. We will calculate whether Inheritance Tax needs to be paid. This depends on how much the property and belongings of the deceased were worth when they died and also on the value of any gifts that they gave before they died and who they gave these gifts to. It also depends upon which people benefit under the Will or under the rules of intestacy.
Winding up the affairs of someone who has died can take a long time. A year is not unusual and perhaps longer if the estate is complex. There are many Institutions involved in the process, for example Banks, Building Societies, Insurance Companies, Department of Work & Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and the Probate Registry.
The things that may affect the time taken in administering an estate are:
Arguments between relatives, beneficiaries or personal representatives can also delay matters. Any disagreements and claims must be sorted out before the affairs of the person who died can be settled.
We will tell you what our costs are likely to be before carrying out any work. The cost of dealing with an estate is usually paid from the estate. Charges can vary between solicitors and depend on what is involved in administering the estate. It is often not possible to know immediately what may be involved and how much advice and help is needed. However, cost is not the only consideration, it is equally important to find a solicitor who is approachable and sympathetic and whose advice you understand.
We offer a free initial consultation to help you decide on how best to proceed with the administration of your loved ones estate.
Download our free guide to the probate process here: Probate Guide
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