We deal with probate matters from the very small to the very complex. We offer a sympathetic and efficient service to those who are responsible for dealing with the estate of someone who has died. Our fees are competitive and are based on the time we spend carrying out work on your behalf, rather than based on a percentage of the value of the estate.
Dealing with winding up someone’s affairs can be time-consuming and complicated. There is also a risk of personal liability if errors are made in estate administration.
Our probate solicitors assist clients in Essex, London and throughout the UK, providing sound practical legal advice, clear fees and no surprises, dealing with all aspects of administering an estate, whether the deceased left a Will or not.
We deal with estates both under and over the Inheritance Tax threshold. Some clients appointed as executors wish to carry out part of the administration of estates themselves, and we offer a flexible service where you can instruct us to do as much or as little as you require.
To have an initial conversation about how we can help you with probate and estate administration, please contact your local Bright & Sons Solicitors office or use the enquiry form to the right, and we will call you back promptly.
We offer home visits within a 20 miles radius. All of our offices have disabled access and free car parking.
Why choose Bright & Sons Solicitors for your probate matter?
We are known for our friendly and approachable service as well as for our legal expertise. Our probate lawyers have a high level of experience in all aspects of estate administration and will deal efficiently with matters from start to finish so that there are no avoidable delays.
We understand that this will be a difficult time for you and that you may also have questions throughout the process. We will ensure that we are available to speak to you to explain matters as needed and to discuss progress.
Our team frequently deals with complex and high net worth estates, to include those including farms or rural holdings.
Our probate lawyers include members of the highly regarded Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), offering independent confirmation of our leading proficiency and high quality estate work.
We are continuously investing in technology to ensure we work both efficiently and cost-effectively for our clients.
How our probate solicitors in Essex can help you
We can deal with a full range of probate and estate administration issues where required, including the following:
- Valuing the estate, including investments, financial holdings, property, valuable items and other assets
- Identifying debts
- Calculating Inheritance Tax, where applicable, and arranging for payment
- Applying for a Grant of Probate or, if the deceased did not leave a Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration
- Clearing the deceased’s debts, including tax liabilities
- Collecting in and selling the estate assets, including selling property where necessary
- Placing press advertisements for creditors and/or beneficiaries as necessary
- Identifying beneficiaries if the deceased did not leave a Will
- Preparing detailed estate accounts
- Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will or, where there is no Will, to those entitled to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy
- Advising the executors or administrators throughout the administration process
What does probate involve?
A Grant of Probate is the legal document giving an estate’s executors the authority to deal with the winding up of the estate. The term probate is also used to refer to the whole administration process, which takes place once the Grant has been received.
Application for a Grant of Probate is made to the Probate Registry with the Court fee and, depending on the estate, an Inheritance Tax account may also be required.
Where the deceased did not leave a Will, it is necessary to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration.
Once the Grant is issued, the executor or administrator can start collecting in the assets and ascertaining what debts the estate owes. These will need to be cleared in full before the estate is distributed.
All assets will need to be identified and accounted for, with detailed estate accounts prepared. The estate can then be distributed to those entitled to inherit and receipts obtained.
When is probate required?
A Grant of Probate is not required for a small estate. There is no legal definition of a small estate, but where the deceased held less than £5,000 in bank accounts, probate will not generally be required, and often this is the case up to around £15,000.
Each bank has its own threshold above which it will want to see a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. This varies between £5,000 and £50,000, depending on the bank in question.
Where the estate includes property that will be sold, then a Grant will usually be necessary.
How long does probate take?
The Probate Registry will take around eight weeks to issue a Grant. The actual process of winding up an estate generally takes months. The more complicated the estate, the longer it is likely to take. Where property needs to be cleared and sold, administration can take up to a year or more.
Can you do probate yourself?
It is open to an executor to deal with both the application for a Grant of Probate and the full estate administration themselves. However, the process can be lengthy and time-consuming. For a more complex estate, there may be advantages in asking an experienced probate solicitor to deal with the winding up.
Issues such as calculating Inheritance Tax and preparing estate accounts are far from simple, and dealing with the requirements of asset holders to encash assets can also be lengthy. If there are disagreements between beneficiaries, it can be helpful to have an experienced probate solicitor involved to ensure matters are dealt with correctly.
It should also be noted that an executor or administrator can have personal liability for any losses to the estate caused by an error they make. For example, if Inheritance Tax is underpaid, HM Revenue & Customs may charge a penalty for this, which the executor or administrator could be liable to pay. This is the case, even if the mistake is a genuine error.
What happens if someone dies without a Will?
If someone does not leave a Will, then their estate will pass according to the Rules of Intestacy. These set out who is entitled to inherit in order of preference, starting with the deceased’s spouse and children.
The Grant of Letters of Administration will generally be applied for by one of those entitled to inherit.
What happens if someone named in a Will is deceased?
If a beneficiary dies before the person making the Will, then the gift to them will depend on the precise terms of the Will in question. The gift could lapse, whereby it will not take effect and the sum in question will form part of the residuary estate to be distributed to other beneficiaries, or there could be substitute provisions made.
If the gift was to a child, then the gift might pass to any children they may have had.
The interpretation of the Will requires careful consideration to protect the executor or administrator from incorrectly distributing the estate to the wrong beneficiaries and becoming personally responsible as a result.
Where an executor has died, any other executors named in the Will could deal with the estate. If no others are named, then a major beneficiary will usually take over the role.
What happens if there is a dispute over a Will?
The executors are bound to act in the best interests of the estate’s beneficiaries. This means that they are bound to defend the estate from claims made against it. Where a dispute arises, it is recommended that legal advice be sought as soon as practicable. It is often possible to resolve matters without court action by dealing with them quickly before the situation escalates.
For information about how we can help you, see dispute resolution.
Our probate fees
Fixed fee probate
We offer a fixed fee service for an application for a Grant of Probate where an estate is below the Inheritance Tax threshold, including identifying executors, administrators and beneficiaries, advising you of the type of Grant needed, completing the application forms and making the application.
Hourly rate probate
For other estate administration, we can advise you of our likely fees depending on the nature and complexity of the estate.
We can take on the full administration on your behalf if you wish. More details of this service plus all of our probate pricing information can be found here.
Contact our probate solicitors in Essex
To speak to one of our expert probate solicitors, please contact your local Bright & Sons Solicitors office in Maldon, Witham or Tiptree or make an enquiry, and we will call you back to discuss your requirements and answer any questions you may have.