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Demystifying Estate Administration and Probate: Part I. Getting Started, Finding the Will and Applying for a Grant of Probate

When a family are faced with dealing with an estate, it can seem a puzzling and upsetting process.  Kings Court Trust uses its expertise to speed up the routine elements, guide the family through the difficult parts, and keep them informed along the way.  Whilst every estate is different, there are common features and steps which are undertaken while administering most estates.  This is the first of a two part article that describes a typical estate and what a family can expect after contacting Kings Court Trust.

The probate experts

Richard Barber was a widower who died in April 2011.  Richard's daughter Celia found Kings Court Trust during some internet research into how to deal with an estate.  Celia had a copy of her father's Will, but was unsure where the original was.  She did know that in the copy she had, her brothers Edward and Andrew and herself were named as Executors and beneficiaries.

Celia telephoned us and spoke to our Probate Support Team who explained to Celia the usual steps for finding an original Will and how we could help.  We suggested that Celia ask at her father's bank and at any solicitors with whom he had dealt recently, but Celia did as we suggested with no success.  Using our contacts and a number of national Will registers we quickly discovered that the document was stored with a local Will Writer.

Having obtained the Will, the siblings all agreed that the next step was to arrange a no-obligation meeting with one of our Regional Probate Consultants in order for them to learn about the estate administration process and the options available to them.  The siblings lived in different areas, and they decided that Edward's home in Bury was the best location for the family.  Our Consultant, Nigel Merchant, visited them there on a Wednesday evening.

Nigel was quickly able to establish that Richard's Will was valid and that it stated that his estate should be left equally to his three adult children.  Nigel then went through the composition of Richard's estate thoroughly, gathering information on the assets, liabilities and expenses of the estate to assess the amount of work that would be necessary.  The siblings explained that they all worked full time and did not feel that they could give the estate the time it would require.  Nigel quoted a fixed price (including VAT and all third party costs such as court fees) on the basis of Kings Court carrying out all aspects of the administration.  The family appointed Kings Court, signed a contract and a Powers of Attorney document, and the work began.

Getting the grant

Nigel had arranged for a courier to collect all the necessary estate paperwork (at no charge to the family) and this arrived at the Kings Court office the next day.  A Case Manager, Laura McDermott, was immediately appointed to handle the administration of the estate. From that point onwards Laura was the single point of contact for the family and responsible for co-ordination and management of all Kings Court's activities.  Laura contacted Celia to introduce herself and explained what would be happening next.  One of the early tasks was to insure Richard Barber's property using our bulk insurance policy, which invariably offers better value and terms where a deceased's property is left unoccupied.

Laura explained to Celia that she would be consulting with her legal and tax colleagues in the office, to ensure they had all the documents they needed.  Laura then wrote to the family setting out how the administration would proceed.  At this point, she also wrote to all asset and liability holders (like banks and building societies with whom Richard had accounts or loans) to establish the actual balances at the date of Richard's death, as this was important information needed to apply for and obtain a Grant of Probate.  It was just under two weeks before we heard back from all the asset holders with all the required data.  Laura also informed other relevant bodies, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, that Richard had died, and she wrote to HM Revenue & Customs to ask whether Richard's Income Tax affairs were up to date.

The end of the beginning

Once Laura had all the details necessary for the next stage she was able to prepare the Grant of Probate application.  The Grant of Probate enables the Executors to deal with the deceased's estate as per the terms of the last Will, and is issued by the District Probate Registrar, who needs to be satisfied that the Will is the deceased's last and that it is valid.  The Inland Revenue also need to be satisfied that any Inheritance Tax due has been correctly calculated and paid before it will permit the Grant to be issued.

Richard's estate included his house (mortgage-free) for which the family had provided an estimated value of £200,000 at the date of his death and we confirmed this via an independent valuation.  Richard held money in three bank accounts and had investments with two different institutions.  Richard's net estate (i.e. his total assets at the date of his death, less his total debts and other liabilities at the same date) was just under £300,000 and therefore no Inheritance Tax would be payable.

The completed application was sent to the Probate Registry and two weeks later, Laura received the Grant of Probate.  In part two, we will look at how Kings Court administered the estate once we received the Grant of Probate.

Polly Callow is a Legal Executive with Kings Court Trust and can be reached on 01225 787 111 or on polly.callow@kctrust.co.uk.