Probate: Managing a loved one’s financial affairs after their death

Coping with the loss of a loved one can be a psychologically distressing experience, so allow yourself to rely on probate specialists for support.

Following the death of a loved one, it is common to experience an overwhelming sadness and a torrent of emotions like shock, exhaustion, anger and even guilt. Everyone experiences grief differently and there isn’t a ‘standard’ or ‘right’ way to grieve, but during the process, it is important to allow yourself to rely on friends and family for support. Equally, when it comes to sorting out the estate of the deceased, it makes sense to get support from a licensed probate practitioner who knows what they are doing.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process you go through when your loved one has passed away and you are the executor of their estate with a duty to resolve all claims and distribute the deceased’s assets under a will.

The estate can be made up of money, property, shares and personal possessions like jewellery or cars.

There isn’t a set timeframe on when the probate process must be started following a death. However, as the executor (or administrator) of the estate, you are usually expected to complete the estate administration within one year from the date of death. The sooner you start and complete the process, the better it is as you may be liable for any loss caused by the process taking more than a year. 

Once the probate process is started, it may take three to five weeks for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to come through if the case is straight forward, otherwise, it may take longer.

Is there a will?

If the deceased has a valid will which names the executor(s) and stipulates what is to happen to the assets (which should collectively be worth more than £15,000), then the executor will need to apply for a Grant of Probate. This grant gives the executor of the will the legal power to administer the estate according to the will. 

If a will does not exist, then a close relative (following the rules of intestacy) will need to apply for Letters of Administration in order to administer the estate. The close relative then becomes known as the administrator.   

The duties of an executor or an administrator can include:

  • Notifying banks and other organisations of the death.
  • Notifying the beneficiaries and determining the entitlements of beneficiaries.
  • Getting the estate valued and reporting the valuation to HMRC.
  • Obtaining a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
  • Paying liabilities, this may involve selling off assets like property to pay off taxes and debts.
  • Distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries named in the will.
  • Keeping a record of the estate accounts.

The process of applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administrations requires various legal documents to be prepared, signed and lodged, which is why it is best to rely on a probate specialist like our team at Berley.

Can accountants handle probate?

The answer is yes. At Berley Chartered Accountants, we are licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to carry out non-contentious Probate in England and Wales.

Traditionally, only lawyers were allowed to handle probate but that changed in August 2014 when licensed accountants like ourselves also became able to offer probate services.

Allowing accountants to provide probate services makes the process much more efficient as lawyers are required to get in contact with a qualified accountant in order to obtain financial information on the deceased. Essentially, using an accountant streamlines this arduous process, meaning you can concentrate on honouring your loved one’s memory rather than painstakingly pursuing the settlement of their affairs.

Using us for probate is likely to be cheaper too as we work on a clear fee structure agreed in advance. Unlike solicitors who are likely to charge on a percentage of the assets, we charge on a time basis. 

Talk to us about our probate services today on 020 7636 9094 or fill in our Online Contact Form.

If you’d like more information pertaining to probate, you can check out:

This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.