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WILLS AND PROBATE

THE IMPORTANCE OF MAKING PREPARATIONS

Although it can be a difficult matter to approach, we know that when we are gone we usually want to pass on our assets to our family and friends. It is therefore important to prepare and execute a fully compliant Will to ensure that our wishes are adhered to and to make the probate process as simple and straightforward as possible during a very emotional and difficult time.

A Will names the individual (there can be more than one) who is to be the executor who ensures that the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries in the Will once all debts have been paid. It is the executors who will apply for the grant of probate. The grant of probate is the document that authorises the executors to collate all assets and then distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.

INTESTACY

If you do not leave a will (that is you die intestate) there are formal procedures laid down to enable someone to act in a similar capacity as an executor, known as an Administrator.

In an intestacy, the application is made for a grant of letters of administration (similar to a grant of probate). There is a legal pecking order in an intestacy as to who benefits from the estate. This means that your estate may not pass to those individuals whom you wish to benefit, particularly remoter family and friends. Therefore we recommend that you always have an up-to-date and compliant Will.

MORE ABOUT THE PROCESS - APPLYING FOR A GRANT OF PROBATE OR LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION ("GRANT OF REPRESENTATION")

Before the Executor/Administrator (the “Personal Representative” or “PR”) can apply for a Grant of Representation there is a certain degree of housekeeping that is required. First all of the paperwork should be collated to see what incoming and outgoings need to be accounted for and who should be notified of the death, life insurance and pensions to name but a few so that a picture can be built up of what comprises the estate and what was owed at the time of death. It is always useful to keep an updated file of all of your important details including contacts at your bank, policy information and other pertinent details. This will help the PR in contacting the right people and ensuring that nothing is overlooked.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

As it is common place to keep sensitive information in the “cloud”, via computers and other devices, you should consider keeping a record of all of your login details so that this information can be accessed by a nominated individual. You can prepare a confidential schedule and place this with a trusted person including a family member, friend or even a professional such as your accountant or solicitor if you have one. There should be very strict and clear instructions that the information should only be released following your death or at a specific time.

If you have made arrangements for a burial or cremation you should ensure that your wishes are communicated to at least one person so that the necessary arrangements can be made. You may also state your wishes in your Will although as it may take time to locate this document (if you have prepared one) it is recommended that you have your wishes communicated beforehand. If you have a funeral/burial policy it is important that you review it to ensure that it covers you, otherwise your estate or your family may end up having to cover unforeseen/uncovered costs.

INHERITANCE TAX ("IHT")

Once the PR have collated all of the relevant information, they can then prepare an Inheritance Tax Account (IHTA) which covers sections on the assets and liabilities of the estate and a calculation for the IHT due (if any). Any IHT should be paid within six months of the end of the month (IHT on property can be paid over ten annual instalments) in which the death occurred and the IHTA should be filed with HMRC within twelve months. Certain estates are classified as excepted estates and in these cases a shorter IHTA can be prepared. If there is no IHT payable, the shorter form can be sent direct to the probate office in order to apply for the Grant of Representation.

MAKING THE APPLICATION

The first named executor usually applies for the Grant of Probate, however the first four of any named individuals in a Will can apply. The Administrator is usually the deceased’s next of kin or a close family friend. Since September 2014, licensed Chartered Accountants are able to extract probate on behalf of PRs. Charterhouse can offer a full probate service including the preparation of the IHTA, extracting probate through to dealing with the distribution of the estate and concluding the period of administration.

CHARTERHOUSE OFFERS A COMPREHENSIVE WILL WRITING, ESTATE IHT PLANNING AND PROBATE SERVICE

We recommend that you review your will and estate affairs once every three years to ensure that any changes in your and your family’s circumstances are taken into account. In addition to ensuring that your will is up to date, we recommend that you consider registering Lasting Power of Attorney to cover you if you are incapacitated and in circumstances where you are otherwise unable to make independent decisions for your own welfare.

We offer a competitive fee charging structure and offer a variety of price structures ranging from time based through to fixed and capped fees and do not charge based on a percentage of the value of the estate.

FIND OUT MORE BY WATCHING OUR FAQ VIDEO ON WILLS

GET IN TOUCH

If you would like to discuss this further then please contact Howard Harris at howard.harris@charter-house.net or on 0208 863 4566.

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