How To Apply For Probate In Lockdown2nd Jun 2020
Social distancing has made applying for probate more difficult – as if it were not hard enough already for bereaved families. The Probate Registry was experiencing delays even before the coronavirus pandemic.
If you are shielding (or minimising time spent out of the home), it is easier for an executor to instruct a solicitor to deal with the estate of your deceased loved one.
We can deal with the whole process at an hourly rate. Or – for a fixed fee – we can simply prepare the application for a grant of probate.
Any aspect of implementing someone’s will can be passed to us to look after for you.
How Does The Process Work?
Meetings can take place electronically or by phone if needed.
We can also help if you need to sign any documents and have those signatures witnessed. You can sign the papers safely in your car while it is parked at one of our offices. We can provide members of our legal team to act as witnesses.
They can watch you through your car window as you sign the documents. They can then retire to safe distance – enabling you to open your car door or window slightly and leave the paperwork on the ground.
Our witnesses can then safely countersign the documents (while you are watching). So your paperwork will be legally signed, witnessed and countersigned without putting you at any risk.
Inheritance Tax (IHT) And Probate
Inheritance Tax has become increasingly complicated. As well as the deceased’s £325,000 IHT threshold, an executor needs to consider whether the deceased:
- was themselves widowed during their lifetime
- received all or just a proportion of the late spouse’s estate – because there may be up to an additional £325,000 IHT threshold which needs to be formally claimed within two years of the spouse’s death.
Furthermore, there is also a Residential Nil Rate Band of £175,000 available if the deceased owned a residential property and is leaving it unconditionally to direct descendants.
And if they were widowed during their lifetime, an extra allowance of £175,000 can be claimed as well.
So up to £1 million of the estate could be exempt from Inheritance Tax.
This is all very involved; it is very easy to get something wrong – or to overlook an allowance that should have been claimed. It is always better to instruct a solicitor (unless the estate is modest and the circumstances are straightforward).
Executors cannot afford to make any mistake that causes a loss to the estate. If they do, they could find themselves liable in damages to the beneficiaries of the will! So it is important to get legal advice from specialist wills and probate solicitors.
Providing Support For Bereaved Families
Solicitors who deal with estates are often there to take the pressure off the immediate family as they struggle to deal with all the paperwork while they are grieving. We are a source of reassurance and support – particularly if the survivors are feeling isolated.
Sometimes there can be conflict within families at these difficult times. When this happens, we are like a policeman trying to make sure that the family is aware of how the will needs to be probated. We can help to keep the peace as much as possible if there are tensions between family members.
Lifetime And Discretionary Trusts
Some wills have complicated arrangements that require a little thought to implement – especially if they involve a trust.
If there is a life interest trust (affecting part or all of a house), the title will normally need to be transferred and the Land Registry notified.
If there is a discretionary trust scheme in the will (possibly because of a vulnerable beneficiary), then the trustees must maintain proper records of their decisions – on at least an annual basis.
Executors are entitled to legal representation at the expense of the estate.
Sometimes we are called in to help after things have gone wrong because people have tried to manage without proper advice and have missed important details.
You may be planning to set up a charitable trust in memory of a loved one. It does not have to be complicated but it still pays to get expert legal advice from the start.
Get Expert Legal Advice
Contact Coles Miller Partner Anthony Weber for more information about wills, probate and Inheritance Tax.