What is a will?
A Will is a legal document that sets out what you want to happen to your estate when you pass away. Every estate will be different, but a basic Will sets out:
• Who your beneficiaries are – the people you want to leave your assets to?
• How you want your assets divided up
• Who your executors are – the people who will administer your estate according to the terms of the Will.
A Will can deal with all what you own, but these are the key points
How do you make a Will
We offer several options to suit you and your needs – you can make a Will by post, or in person. We will advise you on the best way to structure it.
Once it is drafted and you are happy with it, you and two witnesses will need to sign it in order to make it legal.
What do you need to consider when making a Will?
Every estate will be different but there are several things to bear in mind when writing your Will. These include:
• Who do you want to inherit your assets?
• Do you need to plan for inheritance tax?
• Do you have assets in different countries?
• Do you own, or co-own, a business?
• Do you need to provide for children from a previous marriage, whilst still providing for a current partner?
• Will your partner be able to stay in your home if you die?
• How you want your cash in the bank to be distributed?
• Who receives your chattels , art and watches for example.
It is always best to involve a solicitor when you are making or changing your Will. This will make sure your Will covers everything you need it to and that it is legally binding.
Making a Will can cost as little as £500 with our solicitor’s engagement at the outset
What is a Probate ?
A term is often used to refer to the entire process of dealing with a deceased’s estate, from applying to the court for the right to administer the estate, to making sure the deceased’s assets are distributed to the right people. More accurately, Probate is the process of being given the legal right to deal with the things a deceased person leaves behind.
To start the process, the first thing that needs to be done is to find out if there is a Will. If there is, it should be read promptly, initially to see if there are any special instructions concerning the funeral. The Will should also name the people who the deceased wishes to be appointed as Executors. The Executors are responsible for administering the estate in accordance with the instructions set out in the Will. The executors apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate. The Grant of Probate gives them the legal authority to deal
with the estate, such as accessing the bank accounts, encashing investments, selling the house and discharging any liabilities.
However, if the deceased did not make a Will the Intestacy Rules will apply. The Rules set out who is to inherit the assets and that person or people will be appointed as the Personal Representative. The Personal Representative will apply to the court for the right to administer the estate by obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration. They must then administer the estate in accordance with the Intestacy Rules found in Part 4 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925
Process of Probate can be overwhelming
The Executor or Personal Representative (where there is no will) has the following duties and responsibilities:
A. Obtaining valuations of the assets and liabilities of the estate.
B. Calculating whether any Inheritance Tax is due.
C. Completing an HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Inheritance Tax account.
D. Settling Inheritance Tax liabilities;
E. Applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate (where there is a will) or Letters of Administration (where there is no will);
F. Collecting in the assets of the estate and discharging its debts;
G. Distributing the assets according to the Will or the Intestacy Rules, after a
specific amount of time has lapsed (usually at least six months from the Grant of
H. Preparing the estate accounts.
It’s important to bear in mind that claims can be brought against Executors or Personal Representatives who act in a way that constitutes a breach of duty or trust or violate their duties. If successful, the Executor or personal representative will be held personally financially liable for any loss they caused. This is one of many reasons why it is wise to have the assistance of an expert solicitor when applying for Probate.
Our team has decades of experience in dealing with probate and administration of estates. They have experience in dealing with both simple estates and large and highly complex matters, often with assets in multiple jurisdictions with complicated tax considerations.
Our fees on estates vary, depending on what is required. We offer an hourly charging rate where you will be charged for each hour of work undertaken and we do not charge a percentage of the estate which many firms of solicitors do. This often leads to considerable savings for the estate.
We usually take our fees from the estate so there are no up-front costs to the executors. Property sales are subject to a separate fee quote.
Often a telephone conversation before the initial meeting can help us establish a much more accurate fee quote and we encourage you to ring us on this basis. However, the following gives very approximate guidance on our fees.
Legal fees will range between £1,500 and £6,000 plus VAT and disbursements (see below) for simple estates. If you require a “Grant only” application, they may be at the lower end. Simple estates are ones where:
• there is no more than one property in the sole name of the deceased
• there are no more than three bank accounts
• there are no debts (other than utility bills)
• there is a valid will appointing executors
• there is a single beneficiary, or few beneficiaries
• all assets are in England and Wales
• there are no complications, and nothing is in dispute
These are estates which have complexities in addition. So, it might be that the estate is taxable, or a “longform” inheritance tax account is required to satisfy HMRC’s requirements. There may be numerous assets which often include shareholdings. There may many beneficiaries, or beneficiaries might need to be located. Our fees typically range from £6,000 to £12,000 for estates like this, but often we can reduce inheritance tax or other taxes significantly, so the estate will benefit from an overall saving.
These might be estates where the estate is worth over £1m, where there are numerous assets, offshore assets or beneficiaries who live abroad. The will may contain trusts that need setting up or administering. A deed of variation or multiple deeds of variation might be required to reduce the tax liability of beneficiaries, or to pass down inheritance to the next generation. There may be many personal possessions to distribute or multiple properties to sell.
The following factors are also likely to increase the cost of your matter:
• minor beneficiaries
• not having all of the paperwork available, or having missed or incorrect
information that needs investigation and correction
• third parties not responding to our communications promptly
• valuations of property
• dealing with unusual or complex assets or items (for example fine art,
timeshares, shares in private companies etc)
• business property relief or agricultural property relief
• complex tax advice
• disagreements or arguments between beneficiaries or family members
In these cases, our fees are likely to be higher than those stated for Involved estates, but we can only really give estimates for these on a case by case basis so please get in touch.
Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable by us to third parties. Typical examples are as follows:
Timescales and how to proceed
Obtaining a grant of representation and dealing with the administration of an estate can be complicated; it can take several months to make sure everything is done properly. Typical timescales are 3-6 months to obtain a Grant of Probate and 6-12 months for completing the whole administration. We do however offer a complete estate administration service to deal with everything for you.
Every estate is different, which is why we encourage you to contact us so we can provide you with an estimate outlining a range of potential fees to make sure that you get the right amount of support to meet your individual circumstances. We will update you regularly on your costs throughout the matter so you can stay in control throughout.
We are usually able to provide more accurate estimates on fees and likely timescales after the first meeting as there are usually many matters to consider at the outset.
Morgan Reed LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales, number OC316450.
The Registered Office is 36 Spring Street, London W2 1JA where a list of members is kept.
The term partner refers to a member of Morgan Reed LLP.
Morgan Reed Solicitors is the trading name of Morgan Reed LLP
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