Understanding Estate Administration & Probate

Both probate and estate administration are associated with handling an individual’s estate after they’ve died but they are defined differently and often misunderstood. When it comes to probate, it’s a widely used term but there’s a lot of confusion about what it means and what is included in the probate process. On the other hand, estate administration is much less commonly known and referred to, even though the term more accurately describes the process of dealing with a deceased person’s estate.  

What is probate?

Probate actually just refers to the 'Grant of Probate', also known as 'Confirmation' in Scotland, which is required by law when the deceased owns property (including any houses, buildings or land) or if a financial institution (such as a bank) requires a 'Grant of Probate' to release funds. However, probate is not required if the estate is less than £5,000 in value or if the assets were held jointly so will pass to a surviving spouse or partner. 


It’s important to remember that if probate is required, the 'Grant of Probate' must be obtained before an Executor (if there is a Will) or an Administrator (if there is no Will) can start to gather in the assets associated with an estate.


Keep in mind that the 'Grant of Probate' is sometimes referred to as the 'Grant as Representation' or 'Letters of Administration'. 


When probate is required and a Will has been left, there are 5 different stages that need to be followed before estate administration can begin:


1. Obtaining the Will which appoints the Executor.


2. Assessing the estate including:

  • Valuing property, savings, investments and any other assets
  • Calculating debts and liabilities
  • Assessing the details of accounts including stocks and shares
  • Valuing any other significant items

This assessment must be carried out based on the date of death. For example, it must be the value of the assets at the date of death or the outstanding debt value at the time of death. 


3. Completing the probate application, known as PA1 in England or C1/C5 in Scotland, and submitting Inheritance Tax forms to HMRC if necessary. 


4. Sending all details of the application including death certificate to the Probate Registry.


5. Swearing an oath and receiving the “Grant of Probate” or "Letters of Administration".

What is estate administration?

Estate administration is the process of dealing with a person’s legal and tax affairs after they’ve died. This includes everything from bank accounts, belongings and property to debts, pensions and Inheritance Tax. It can sometimes be extremely complex depending on the estate and the wishes left in the Will.


Surprisingly, approximately 60% of the UK population do not have a valid Will. If there’s no Will, it’s classed as an intestate estate and the assets will be distributed in line with the rules of intestacy, rather than the family wishes. If this is the case, it’s likely to make the estate administration process more complicated.

SO WHAT COULD BE INVOLVED IN ESTATE ADMINISTRATION?

  •  Completing all Inheritance Tax forms
  • Applying for probate or confirmation – Probate is often mistaken for the entire estate administration process, whereas it’s only a small part of what’s involved.
  • Income Tax work for the year of death
  • Valuing assets
  • Property valuation and sale
  • Specialist building insurance
  • Setting up Trusts in a Will
  • Postal redirection
  • Registering unregistered properties
  • Arranging for a pet to be re-homed
  • Cancelling or transferring utilities
  • Settling all liabilities
  • Distributing funds to beneficiaries
  • Producing estate accounts

Kings Court Trust offer all of the services listed above as part of their fixed fee price. Although, you may find that other estate administrator providers only provide assistance in some of these areas so it's important to be clear on what's included.  

THE OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO AN EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR

There are three main options available to an Executor or Administrator when dealing with the estate of a deceased person. You can opt to do it yourself, work with a solicitor or legal professional or use an estate administration service.  


1. DO-IT-YOURSELF (DIY)


With the DIY approach, there is potential for you to save money whilst remaining in full control. This method can suit those who have the time on their hands and understand the legal jargon. However, this method has plenty of hindrances and risks. It can be time-consuming, it requires a large amount of paperwork, you face the legal and financial responsibility for administering the estate correctly and expertise is required as it is not an easy task so plenty of research is likely to be involved.


2. SOLICITOR OR LEGAL PROFESSIONAL


A solicitor or legal professional is often the first place people look and there are some benefits to opting to use their service including them typically being geographically local to you and taking on the task of applying for probate. Additionally, they often charge a percentage of the estate and/or hourly fees which could appear cheaper and easier to understand in the first instance. This pricing model can also be a downside to this approach as the final bill is often unknown when they are charging for their time and expenses. There are many other disadvantages to this method including that the solicitor may just be offering to obtain the “Grant of Probate” rather than the full estate administration service, you may still be legally and financially responsible for the estate, and the solicitor may not have the level of expertise or knowledge required.


3. ESTATE ADMINISTRATION SERVICE


An estate administration service, like that provided by Kings Court Trust, can provide a fixed fee upfront so there’s no concern over the final cost. This service handles all aspects of the estate, including taking on full legal and financial responsibility, providing a dedicated personal estate manager to keep you updated throughout the process and offering peace of mind with their extensive experience. The main downfall of this approach is that the upfront cost could initially look more than that provided by a solicitor, even though once the cost is broken down, it is likely to work out cheaper.


If you have any questions about your options when it comes to the probate and estate administration process, call Kings Court Trust's Bereavement Support Team by phone on 03332 075 477 for free guidance and advice 

Estate Administration Service

Kings Court Trust

Supporting you through the estate administration process

Legal Services At Home understand that dealing with the death of a loved one can be a stressful and emotional experience. This is why Legal Services At Home want to support our clients at their time of need by offering them access to professional services that can reduce the burden on them at this difficult time.


One task that you may need to consider is administering the estate of the person who has passed away. This can be a complex and time consuming legal process that involves dealing with all of the assets and liabilities associated with the estate. This could include property, stocks, shares, bank accounts and other personal belongings that need to be distributed in line with the Will.


There is often a significant amount of paperwork that needs to be completed, not to mention liaising with various third parties and calculating the tax that is payable on the estate. Some clients choose to undertake the estate administration themselves but others prefer to appoint a specialist firm to do the hard work for them.


Legal Services At Home recommend Kings Court Trust, one of the UK’s leading estate administration specialists. They have helped over 7,000 families deal with the estates of their loved ones, offering a range of services to reduce the stress and work involved.


Kings Court Trust offers a number of services that you can take advantage of:·

  • Free, impartial and practical advice on what to do when someone dies so that you can understand your options and make an informed decision with confidence
  • A comprehensive estate administration service that will remove the stress, effort and legal liability of dealing with a potentially complicated process yourself 
  • A fixed fee service so that you know exactly what you will pay up front and don’t have the uncertainty of hourly rates or contingency fees to consider
  • Regular updates on how the estate is being managed and the opportunity to track progress at any time thanks to Insight, an exclusive online monitoring system· 
  • You will be allocated a dedicated personal estate adviser and can contact them directly by phone or email – no call centre queues or being passed from person to person when you need to speak to someone about your case.

For an informal discussion about Kings Court Trust and their services, please call for a no obligation quotation on 0121 249 1808.