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When someone dies there is a lot to do. Filling in forms, sending off paperwork, phone calls to banks, building societies and other organisations – the list is seemingly endless at an already difficult time.

In the midst of all this, comes applying for probate – the legal authority granted to an executor of a Will to deal with the affairs, or ‘estate’ – of the person who has died including their property, money and possessions.

Sometimes it’s relatively straightforward and easy, but sometimes – particularly when a person has died without making a Will – it’s more complicated and the help you may want, or need with the process can vary enormously.

You can apply yourself for probate or use a solicitor. The paperwork involved in estate administration can be daunting for executors but at Wards Solicitors we have one of the largest and most experienced specialist probate teams in the South West.

Whether you need just a little help, or a lot, we can advise on everything from intestacy rules to disputed Wills, tax implications to inheritance issues, and we offer a free initial appointment for you to discuss what you need.

When someone dies you need to get the court’s permission to deal with their estate before you can do anything. This means that you are not allowed to collect up the assets, distribute them to beneficiaries or even pay off debts until you have gone through the probate process.

Finding your way through the Wills and Probate process

The way in which you need to proceed will depend on one of the following:

  • If there is a Will it will usually name executors. These are people named by the deceased as responsible for managing the probate process and the eventual distribution of assets etc. They can apply to the probate registry for a ‘grant of probate’.
  • If there is a Will but it doesn’t name executors, or if none of the executors want to act, a beneficiary of the Will is allowed to apply to the probate registry themselves for a ‘grant of letters of administration (with Will)’.
  • If there isn’t a Will, a relative or other eligible person is allowed to apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’.

"I would like to thank Tom Scoffham for his diligence, professionalism and patience and would have no hesitation in recommending his services."

"Rachael was excellence, she was very competent, professional and had an in depth knowledge in her specialist field."

"I found Katherine Roe very helpful and pleasant to deal with. I would have no hesitation in recommending Wards Solicitors."

"Probably the best experience we have had in our various dealings with the legal profession. Our daughter, also a solicitor in another firm, suggested we contact you and we're glad we did."

The executors, or those applying, will be asked to sign an oath confirming the information provided is accurate and that they will manage the estate in a correct way.

What does the probate registry do?

At this point, assuming you have met all of the required criteria, the probate registry will issue the correct one of these three grants to allow you to proceed.  These can then be used to prove that you are entitled to manage the deceased’s estate and release any money or assets accordingly.

If you are concerned that there is no Will, read our ‘What happens if someone dies without leaving a Will’ legal guide.

For more information on the probate process, contact Jenny Pierce on 0117 9292811.

You can download our step-by-step checklist for the things you need to do after someone dies.

If you have been named as an executor or are a next of kin then the process of Probate can be baffling. Our specialists are experienced in approaching things logically and efficiently. Our aim is to always approach things with common sense and to try to make things run as smoothly as possible. We provide more information in our legal guides –

However, in all cases, the best place to start is to contact one of our Probate specialists at an office near you. We’ll talk to you about your individual case and make sure that you receive the correct advice for each individual issue.

Most estates are wound up within one year; simple estates may only take a few months but complex ones can take longer than a year. We’ll be able to estimate the timescale more accurately once we know the natures of the estate. In the meantime you need to be aware that sole assets will be frozen and, if you are a surviving partner, unless you have already done so, you might need to make provision for cash to live on whilst the process is completed. We can advise on all of this when we first meet you.

Will trusts are often set up to provide for minor children or vulnerable adults. Some are very simple to administer, some are designed to be very flexible but can be subject to complex tax rules. As an executor and/or trustee you have a legal duty to ensure the trust is run properly. Our trusts specialists can advise on how a trust should work in practice, what you need to do about tax, and when payments can be made from the trust funds.

Unfortunately, disputes involving estates after a death are on the increase and can make things complicated and sensitive. Whatever the nature of the dispute, however, the answer lies in resolving it quickly and cost-effectively. We are one of the few firms to have a dedicated team of specialists in resolving disputes concerning Wills, estates and family trusts. Our lawyers are members of the Association of Contentious Trusts & Probate Specialists (ACTAPS), the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, Solicitors for the Elderly and of the Law Society’s Probate Panel. All demand expertise and up-to-date knowledge from their members.

For more information on this please see our probate disputes page.

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