Beacon Advice consultant assisting a grieving couple in their late 50s with probate paperwork in a cosy home, featuring a framed picture of the deceased parent.

Understanding Probate: A Guide for Our Clients

Understanding the Probate Process in England

At Beacon Advice, we are pleased to announce our new partnership with a national probate firm.

This collaboration allows us to extend our services to include comprehensive probate assistance.

In our experience, many people find themselves as executors of a deceased person’s estate with little or no understanding of what is required of them.

Often, they are close relatives, and grief is a huge factor.

Frequently, probate gets delegated to an unknown solicitor or probate company.

This article will guide you through the probate process, helping you understand what it entails and how we can assist you every step of the way.

 

What is Probate in England?

Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate.

This involves validating the will (if there is one), paying off debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

The process ensures that the estate is handled according to the deceased’s wishes or, if there is no will, according to the law.

 

When Do You Need Probate in England?

Probate is usually required if the deceased owned property, had significant assets, or held investments solely in their name.

Banks and other financial institutions often require a grant of probate before releasing funds.

However, small estates might not need probate, especially if assets are jointly owned or if the value falls below a certain threshold.

(See the bottom of this article for more guidance on banks, building societies, and other organisations.)

 

Probate in England with No Will

When a person dies without a will, their estate is considered intestate.

In this case, the process is similar to probate, but an administrator is appointed instead of an executor.

The administrator handles the estate according to intestacy rules, which dictate how the assets are distributed among surviving relatives.

If you need to work out who is the next of kin, you can use the Government’s guide with this link: Intestacy – who inherits if someone dies without a will? – GOV.UK

 

Why is Probate Taking So Long in England?

As of June 2024, the average time for probate in England is 11.3 weeks. Various factors contribute to delays, including:

  • Complex Estates: Estates with numerous or complicated assets take longer to process.
  • Disputes: Disagreements among beneficiaries or claims against the estate can cause delays.
  • Backlogs: The probate registry can experience backlogs, especially after holidays or during busy periods.
  • Incorrect Applications: Errors in the application can result in delays, as corrections need to be made.

Online applications have proven faster than paper applications, reducing the average processing time.

 

How Much are the Probate Fees in England?

The probate fees in England are £300.

This fee is required to process the application and issue the grant of probate or letters of administration.

 

The Probate Process: Step-by-Step

  1. Registering the Death:
    This must be done within five days in England and Wales.
    You will receive a death certificate, which is needed for the probate process.
  2. Locating the Will:
    If a will exists, it will name an executor responsible for administering the estate.
    If there is no will, the estate is considered intestate, and an administrator is appointed.
  3. Valuing the Estate:
    This involves determining the value of all assets and liabilities at the time of death.
    You need to have these figures and any funeral costs to hand for when you apply.
  4. Applying for Probate:
    The executor or administrator applies for a grant of probate (or letters of administration in cases of intestacy) from the Probate Registry.
  5. Settling Debts and Taxes:
    The executor settles any outstanding debts and ensures all taxes are paid before distributing the remaining assets.
  6. Distributing the Estate:
    Finally, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries as per the will or, in the absence of a will, according to intestacy laws.

How Beacon Advice Can Help

With our new national probate service, we offer support throughout the entire probate process, including:

  • Professional Guidance:
    Our associates will guide you through each step, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and providing peace of mind during a challenging time.
  • Efficient Administration:
    They will assist with the necessary paperwork, liaising with financial institutions and the Probate Registry on your behalf.
  • Tax Advice:
    Our experts provide advice on inheritance tax and strategies to manage potential liabilities.
  • Estate Distribution:
    They help ensure that the estate is distributed according to the will or intestacy rules, safeguarding the interests of the beneficiaries.

Many of the services are provided on a fixed fee basis, and all potential clients will receive a quote based on the complexity of the work needed before they commit.

 

Conclusion

Navigating the probate process can be complex and emotionally taxing.

At Beacon Advice, we are here to make it as straightforward and stress-free as possible.

With our new partnership, we are now fully equipped to handle all aspects of probate, providing you with the professional support you need.

If you have any questions about probate or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We are here to help you every step of the way.

Visit our Contact Us page and contact your nearest consultant or fill in the contact form – Contact / About Us – Beacon Advice

 

Further Guide to Banks, Building Societies & Other Organisations

Each financial institution also has different rules on whether the threshold is confined to the amount held in the account or if this relates to the overall value of the estate (meaning everything the deceased person owned).

Some banks and financial institutions might say that probate is required if there is £30,000 being held in an account, whereas others might say that probate is needed if the entire estate is worth £30,000.

The term probate refers to a legal document which gives the executor or administrator authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.

This document is called a grant of probate if there is a will or a grant of letters of administration if there isn’t.

This document is important because, as you can imagine, banks can’t allow just anyone to withdraw money from a deceased person’s account.

But if you’ve got a grant of probate, it confirms that you have the legal authority to do so.

Ultimately, it is at the discretion of the bank or building society to decide whether probate is needed.

These institutions have the authority to request a grant of probate before releasing funds, even if the value falls below their stated threshold.

The threshold for probate can range from £5,000 to £50,000, depending on which banks and financial institutions are holding the deceased person’s assets.

The probate threshold for each bank and building society is different, so we’ve put together a list of probate limits for the main banks and building societies in England and Wales.

This list is a guideline only and should not be relied upon as fact; these thresholds are subject to change.

It’s worth noting that even if your loved one’s estate is below the probate threshold, a financial institution can still request that a grant of probate is obtained.

This is common where there is a complex family situation or a large estate.

However, if a deceased person’s estate is worth less than £5,000, it would be unusual for probate to be needed.

Co-Op Legal services have compiled a useful list of thresholds – click here to view – Bank Limits for Probate (co-oplegalservices.co.uk)

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