Service: Probate and estate planning 

A simple guide to probate

By Simon Hosier

27 Jul 2021

What is probate?

Probate is a term used to refer to the process of dealing with the estate of a deceased person. The people who are legally entitled to deal with the estate of the person who has died are known as ‘personal representatives. 

When is probate required?

If there is a will naming an executor, and they are willing and able to act, they become the personal representatives. They will need to obtain a grant of probate from the Probate Registry, which will give them legal authority to fulfill their duties. If there are no executors willing or able to act, or if there is no will in place, the personal representatives will be called ‘administrators’, and they will need to obtain a ‘grant of letter of administration’ which gives them authority to act. 

The probate process ensures that relevant taxes are calculated and paid, money owing to creditors and owed by debtors is collected, and, if a will has been made, the deceased’s remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with his or her wishes.
The personal representatives can choose if they are happy to undertake the administration of the probate process, or whether they would like to engage the services of a suitably qualified professional to assist them in this difficult process.  

Gerald Edelman has a dedicated team with the expertise and experience to assist you with the probate process. We offer support and advice to many bereaved families and individuals, acting responsibly with honesty, trust, openness, and care during such a difficult time. 

Led by Richard Kleiner, our dedicated Probate and Estate Planning Services team will first seek to fully understand your situation before talking through your options and the best course of action. We are always on hand to address any concerns or questions you may have, no matter how small or sensitive they may seem.

Frequently asked questions

1. Can I market a house before probate is granted?  

Quite often the assets of a deceased person will include property, usually in the form of the main residence of the departed. It is the disposal of any property that gives the executors of the will the most to think about. In certain circumstances, a property can be sold before probate is granted. If the deceased person leaves a spouse or partner who is on the title deeds of the property as a joint owner, then the property can be sold if the survivor wishes it to be disposed of. However, if the deceased person only is named on the title deeds of the property, then probate will be required before the property can be sold. If a person dies without leaving a will, then the executors will be unable to market any property until letters of administration have been issued. In some cases, obtaining probate can take some time so where possible it would be prudent to begin marketing the property before obtaining probate to allow the sale to take place swiftly after probate has been granted. In some cases, contracts can be exchanged prior to probate being granted.

Research suggests that up to 60% of the population do not have a valid will or no will at all. We would recommend that you give this due consideration as the probate process is much more complicated in the absence of a valid will. It is also more complicated and time-consuming if you try to deal with the process yourself in the absence of a professional.  Gerald Edelman can provide the probate expertise required at extremely competitive rates. Our probate team can also provide expertise on property law, family and inheritance law, and handling tax matters in various jurisdictions. 

2. What is happening with probate fees? 

The Ministry of Justice is looking to make probate fees more expensive, claiming that the current system operates at a loss and places an unfair burden on the taxpayer. Under proposals recently published, fees to apply for a grant of probate will increase from £155 and £215 – for probate professionals and individuals respectively – to a flat fee of £273 for all applicants, regardless of the size of the estate. This fee increase supersedes an earlier proposal based on a percentage basis which would have led to markedly higher average fees of up to £6000.

3. Should I be using digital wills? 

The Law Society has urged people to include ‘digital assets’ such as emails and photos in their wills, as research reveals that three-quarters of people do not know what happens to their online presence after they die. A survey commissioned by the Law Society found that 93% of those who have a will have not included any digital assets in it Technology is a huge part of modern life and our digital assets include everything from photos stored online to online banking and email accounts. Overlooking digital assets could leave family members unable to access information needed for probate as well as personal and family concern. Food for thought! 

How Gerald Edelman can help

Gerald Edelman has a dedicated team with the expertise and experience to assist you with the probate process. We offer support and advice to many bereaved families and individuals, acting responsibly with honesty, trust, openness, and care during such a difficult time. 

Our probate team would be happy to arrange a free initial consultation via a call, online or in-person at our Cornhill office in the City of London – simply fill in the contact form below or learn more about our Probate and Estate Planning services here. 

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