Sorting out the legal and financial issues that flow from a death is generally referred to by lawyers as Probate. This term derives from the name of the Court Order that confirms the validity of a Will, the “Grant of Probate”. The area of work, however, covers a very much broader field than that. “Probate” can be as simple as just obtaining a Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration if there is no valid Will), which involves just a court application and filing some tax forms, all the way through to doing all the legal and administrative acts connected to a person’s death. We always look to tailor the service we offer to a specific family’s needs to keep costs down. Probate has a bad public reputation in the sense that probates handled by solicitors are often said to be slow and expensive. We aim very much to counter that reputation by de-mystifying the process, being proactive to move matters along swiftly, being transparent on costs and highlighting the potential reasons for any hold up well before they occur.
Probate work also encompasses not just acting for the deceased’s estate but also covers acting for beneficiaries of an estate to ensure their rights are respected. It is a sad truth that these days more and more probates are becoming contentious. It is important therefore both beneficiaries and executors/administrators/trustees know their rights and the limits on those rights.
Probate also, of course, involves many estates in Inheritance Tax. This is a highly legalistic tax levied at a fairly harsh rate (generally 40%) once certain thresholds are crossed. The tax is potentially avoidable or capable of significant reduction quite legitimately with proper planning and we have extensive expertise in this area. There are, though, also lots of schemes around that purport to avoid Inheritance Tax whose legality or effectiveness is dubious and we also have plenty of experience unpicking the mess when these schemes fail.
One very important aspect of probate (like Trust or Attorney work) is that people are tasked with handling other people’s money and keeping detailed accounts. We are able to assist in all aspects of estate accounting.
Finally, probate work interrelates closely with Trust work as many Wills create Trusts and death is also an event that often brings an existing Trust to an end.