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A person who leaves a will invariably names in it the people he/she wants to deal with his/her property and possessions after death. They are called ‘executors’ and his/her property and possessions are called the ‘estate’.
A person’s estate can include land, savings, insurance policies, furniture, paintings, clothes, cars and any other personal effects.
Many executors find the task of carrying out the wishes of a deceased loved one a daunting one, often concerned about their legal and personal responsibilities to beneficiaries.
Administration of an estate
Our probate solicitors regularly advise executors on dealing with the administration of an estate – helping with formalities, advising on tax, helping realise the estate, dealing with distributions to beneficiaries, and preparing estate accounts.
Our estate administration team are able to reduce this burden during a stressful time and will assist with obtaining official documentation on behalf of an executor, finding out the total value of the deceased person's estate and assisting with the formal valuation of property, jewellery and other personal effects and ensuring the correct forms are completed quickly and efficiently throughout every stage of the process.
If the estate (together with gifts made in the 7 years prior to death added back in) exceeds £325,000 (for the tax year 2011/12), inheritance tax may be payable and our solicitors will advise you on the next steps to take to ensure all tax liabilities are realised and acted upon correctly.
Part of the probate process involves completing an Inheritance Tax Account to submit to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and paying any inheritance tax due, before being able to make the probate application. The form includes the claim aspect of the transferable nil rate band which is enabling more estates to escape inheritance tax than previously.
Our specialist probate team can successfully lodge these applications with HMRC as part of their estate administration service, often achieving substantial inheritance tax reductions by using the transferable nil rate band claim in this way.
Distributing the estate
We can assist with distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the will to ensure honesty and fairness is maintained. Once the grant has been received, all assets need to be collected in – these may include cash, balances from bank and building society accounts, pension arrears and proceeds of sale of shares and other assets.
There may be a sale of a business, agricultural property, or a house or flat, in the UK or elsewhere. We can help clarify and exercise any pension options for the surviving spouse, civil partner or other family member and prepare the necessary final accounts to show how the estate has been distributed.
Large estates or ones that include a business or agricultural property often prove to be more complex, as can estates involving family trusts or substantial gifts. Perhaps the beneficiaries have agreed to a variation of the will, whether to reduce inheritance tax or to save the family home having to be sold – in all cases, our experienced teams are able to provide peace of mind and prevent future disputes.
Our lawyers can also advise on administering an estate where there is no will or can act on your behalf should the will be disputed, is poorly drafted or its validity challenged.