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Administering an estate during a pandemic

Our People - Chryso Loizides
18 May, 2020

Administering a loved one’s estate so soon after their passing, can be an emotional process and especially challenging during the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has launched a new standard grant of representation application forms for legal professionals. These forms are effective for all probate applications from 18 May 2020 and can be used by solicitors applying on behalf of their clients. The forms can be signed by the solicitor on the client’s behalf making the process simpler. It is hoped the new forms will also enable courts to digitise information more easily. This will also reduce errors and speed up the process.

We have provided a guide below which it will help you identify whether you need to make a probate application and what steps you should take.

What is a grant of probate or letters of administration?

A Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is an official document issued by the court. The Grant will set out the name of the person or persons entitled to administer the estate of the deceased person.

A Grant of Probate is issued to executors named in a will and Letters of Administration are issued to persons who apply to the court to represent the estate under the intestacy rules if there is no will.

The document has a court seal on it and you can be provided with additional copies by the court.

When is a Grant required?

Applying for a Grant may not be required if the estate is very small and only consists of cash assets.

If the estate contains shares or fixed property (land or buildings) a Grant will be required to deal with these assets.

If the deceased died without a will, we would advise a Grant should be obtained to ensure that someone is formally appointed to deal with the estate of the deceased’s person.

Who is entitled to apply?

If the deceased left a will, the executors named in the Will, will be entitled to apply for a Grant of Probate.

If the deceased did not leave a Will then the deceased died intestate. Whoever is eligible to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration will be determined by the intestacy rules.

Duties of Executors and Administrators

As an Administrator or an Executor of a Will, you have a duty to administer the estate and apply for a Grant if required.

The following basic steps will need to be taken as part of the administration (but there may be additional steps to take depending on the complexity of the estate);

  1. Calculate the value of the death estate by obtaining valuations, professional valuations for certain assets like property or valuable items should be obtained;
  2. Secure and insure any property of the deceased;
  3. Obtain a death certificate
  4. Notify banks, building societies and insurance companies and request to stop any direct debits and payments.
  5. Pay any inheritance tax due;
  6. Apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration if required
  7. Pay any debts that the deceased had; and
  8. Distribute the estate in accordance with the deceased’s will or intestacy rules.

How long you have to wait before obtaining a Grant?

There is no specific deadline for obtaining a Grant but there is a duty to administer the estate in a timely manner.

There can often be a lot of paperwork involved and the timescale for being able to make an application may vary depending on the complexity of the estate and how long it takes to obtain all the date of death information for the estate.

Once the application is submitted to the Probate Registry, it could take an average time of 4-6 weeks to receive the Grant during the pandemic.

Do I really need to instruct a solicitor?

You do not have to instruct a solicitor, however administering an estate can sometimes be time-consuming and complicated in its nature.

Our solicitors can advise and assist you throughout the process on an ad hoc basis or we can deal with the entire probate process for you. You are in control and can instruct a solicitor to do as much or as little as you want.

GN Law recognises that many people feel reassured to have the support of a solicitor during this process and especially in the current circumstances.

Our fees could be paid out from the estate which means no up-front cost.

Our probate solicitors are committed to continuing to support people through the process of administering the estate of their deceased loved ones and in turn, relieve some of the current pressures people are facing.

If you would like any help or advice on any issues relating to probate, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Probate Team or get in touch on 020 8492 2290.

In the meantime, we hope you all stay safe and well.

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