Losing a loved one is hard enough in itself. So, if you’ve been placed in charge of sorting out their Will and estate, we understand how easy it is to become overwhelmed. That’s why our goal is to take the weight off your shoulders as much as possible.
At Lewis Denley, we offer specialist probate and estate administration services to clients across West Sussex and South East England.
We can assist at every stage of the process, including applying for the Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration if the deceased did not leave a Will), and handling all aspects of the estate administration on your behalf.
Our estate administration and probate solicitors’ expertise
Our sensitive and approachable solicitors have extensive experience across all aspects of estate administration, including:
- Reviewing the deceased’s Will and providing advice on its contents
- Providing advice on what to do if the deceased did not leave a Will
- Applying for Grants of Representation – a Grant of Probate if there is a Will or Letters of Administration where there is no Will
- Providing advice on your role and responsibilities as an Executor or Administrator
- Handling the estate administration on your behalf
- Providing advice and representation during any disputes about the Will or the estate administration
What is probate and estate administration?
The terms “probate” and “estate administration” are often used interchangeably. However, probate is actually part of the wider estate administration process.
Probate is the process of obtaining legal authorisation to the deal with the estate. For example, most banks and building societies won’t release your loved one’s money until you are authorised. If you’ve been appointed as an Executor under a Will, you do not automatically get this authorisation, you must first apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate.
Estate administration is the wider process of:
- Obtaining the Grant of Probate
- Gathering financial information and getting the estate valued
- Closing bank accounts and setting up a separate bank account for the estate
- Collecting the deceased’s money from bank and building society account, pensions, and insurance policies into the estate account
- Paying off the deceased’s debts
- Paying for funeral costs and other expenses
- Calculating and paying Inheritance Tax
- Distributing inheritance to the Beneficiaries
What if there is no Will?
If the deceased did not leave a valid Will, you can still obtain authorisation to administer the estate. However, instead of applying for a Grant of Probate, you will need to apply for Letters of Administration to become an Administrator.
You can apply to be an Administrator if you are “next-of-kin” which is established using the following hierarchy:
- Spouse or civil partner or the deceased
- Child of the deceased
- Grandchild of the deceased
- Parent of the deceased
- Sibling of the deceased
- Niece or nephew of the deceased
- Another relative of the deceased
Unfortunately, an unmarried partner cannot become an Administrator.
You can also apply to become an Administrator where there is a valid Will but no Executors are appointed or they are unable or unwilling to act.
The Administrator will have the same responsibilities to administer the estate as if they were an Executor. However, if there is no valid Will, the estate will be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy as there will be no named Beneficiaries.
Do you always need to apply for probate?
You might not need to apply for probate in the following circumstances:
- The estate is only cash and/or personal belongings such as cars and furniture (if there is a house or flat, it’s likely you’ll need to go through probate)
- Any property is beneficially jointly owned – the “rule of survivorship” means it will all go to the joint owners
- The estate is insolvent – this means there isn’t enough money to pay all the estate’s debts, taxes, or expenses
- The estate is small – for example, some banks may release a deceased person’s money without a Grant of Probate or Letters of Representation if the amount is relatively small
If you’re not sure, we can provide advice about whether probate is needed to administer your loved one’s estate.
What if I don’t want to be an Executor?
Even if you have been appointed as an Executor, you won’t be forced to act. You may renounce your Executorship up until the Grant of Representation is issued. Generally, the deceased will have appointed more than 1 Executor (you can have a maximum of 4) so if you renounce, they can continue to act. If you were the only Executor, someone else will need to apply for Letters of Administration to be able to administer the estate.
Alternatively, you can appoint someone to act on your behalf or obtain professional legal assistance. We have considerable experience administering estates on behalf of Executors. Please get in touch for further information.
Why choose Lewis Denley’s estate administration solicitors?
At Lewis Denley, we understand how distressing it can be to try and deal with a loved one’s estate while also grieving. Our friendly solicitors will provide sensitive advice and aim to make the process as straightforward as possible, so you can avoid any unnecessary stress or upset.
We’ll take proactive steps to obtain Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration as swiftly as possible. We’re also highly responsive and will always be on hand to answer your questions or address your concerns.
We’re proud to offer flexible payment options designed to suit your individual needs and budget, so contact us today to discuss your case and agree fees.