Probate and Estate Administration

When a family member or close friend dies, somebody has to take responsibility for dealing with their affairs.

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Guiding you through all aspects of probate and estate administration

This solemn but necessary process typically includes matters like selling or disposing of property and possessions, realising their assets (bank accounts, shares, and so on), paying off any due debts, and sorting out inheritance tax.

Then comes the task of distributing the estate, according to the terms of the will. If there is no will, then according to the rules of intestacy (explained below).

‘Probate’ is the term used for the legal and financial process needed to deal with someone’s estate. Probate ends once all taxes and debts have been paid and all inheritance passed on to those entitled.

If a valid will has been left, it will name one or more executors, who are then responsible for handling this process. To do so, the executors must apply for a grant of probate, which evidences their legal right to manage the estate.

The probate process can be complex and challenging, especially for anyone not familiar with such matters. Straightforward, practical advice is often needed, to manage the process, making the right decisions and avoiding common pitfalls.

You can apply for probate yourself. The necessary documents are available online at the website, or by completing an application form and sending it to the probate Court.

Alternatively, you can enlist one of our specialists to help you. We can support you or complete the process on your behalf. You can discuss with us exactly how much you want us to do, ensuring everything is done correctly and as quickly as possible.

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What is a probate practitioner   

A probate lawyer or practitioner helps executors and family members navigate the entire probate process. Using their specialist knowledge and experience, they help you settle any debts of the deceased and distribute the assets, making sure everything is handled lawfully and fairly.

What does a probate practitioner do?

A qualified, experienced practitioner can guide you through the stages of applying for probate. Our estate administration service is designed to help you, during what can be a sad and difficult time.

We can take care of all formalities arising under the will (or under the intestacy rules, where no will exists), including the following:

  • completing the necessary HM Revenue Customs accounts, calculating any tax due (including inheritance tax).
  • obtaining the grant of probate “probate” (where there is a Will) , cashing-in or transferring assets as appropriate.
  • settling debts, completing estate accounts and making distributions.
  • ensuring full liaison with the family and beneficiaries throughout, providing a clear and personal service.
  • Advise you how assets can be protected for the future and whether any tax can be saved.

Our experience, together with our renowned caring, professional approach offers you clear, sound advice, when it is needed most.


What is included in someone’s estate?

Someone’s ‘estate’ means everything owned by that person when they die. It includes money (both cash and money in bank or building society accounts, plus any life insurance policies), together with all property they own, including property held jointly.

Grant of probate

A grant of probate is the legal document needed to access bank accounts, sell assets and settle debts. If the deceased did not leave a will, a grant of letters of administration is used instead. Both documents give a named person(s) the legal authority to deal with the estate.

Complex estates

The probate process is fundamentally the same whatever the size of the estate. However, understanding and managing this process becomes much more difficult and time-consuming if the estate is large and complex. 

There may be particular issues over the assets of an estate, inheritance tax or even contested wills. These can lead to conflict and litigation in some cases. That is why, in more complex cases, it can be particularly wise to consult a specialist to steer you through.

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The probate process is largely concerned with carrying out the wishes of the deceased, as expressed in their will. However, if there is no valid will in place, then the rules of intestacy will determine who is entitled to inherit from the deceased.

The rules of intestacy set our who is entitled to inherit an estate where there is no will and the intestate beneficiaries are normally entitled to apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration. However, certain people, such as unmarried partners and stepchildren are not recognised under the rules.


Deeds of variation

In some cases, it is possible for those receiving an inheritance from an estate (the beneficiaries) to change to the way the state is divided, instead of directly following the terms of the will (or the rules of intestacy). This is achieved by a deed of variation.

There are various reasons why the beneficiaries may agree to a variation. For example, they may agree that it is fair to make the distribution equal between all the beneficiaries. It can also be used to provide for someone who was not included in the will, such as a grandchild who was born after the will was made. Similarly, it can cater for someone excluded by rules of intestacy, such as a partner or step-child.

Deeds of variation can also be used for inheritance tax planning reasons and making special payments, such as including a charity.  

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The probate process, step-by-step

No two cases are the same, and our flexible service reflects that. However, the following breakdown provides an idea of what is typically involved, and how we can help you:

Registering the death

Before applying for probate, you need to register the death at the register office (local to where the death occurred). This should happen within five days of the death in England and Wales or eight days in Scotland - unless a coroner’s report delays the process. Once registered, you will receive a Certificate of Registration of Death (a death certificate).

Valuing the estate

To value the estate, you need to calculate the collective value of all assets left behind, along with any outstanding debts.

Possessions and assets should be listed, including property, possessions, savings, shares and any other finances. Then come joint assets, such as a property or accounts held jointly by two people. Also listed as assets are financial gifts given to anyone within the last seven years.

Calculating and paying inheritance tax

If the total value of the estate is over £325,000, after outstanding debts are paid, the estate might be be liable for inheritance tax at a rate of up to 40%, depending on whether there are any reliefs or exemptions available,  for example, assets that pass between a husband and wife or civil partners are exempt from Inheritance Tax, as are gifts to charity. The estate may qualify for a Transferable Inheritance Tax nil rate band or Residence nil rate band, depending on the circumstances. If there is any Inheritance Tax payable, a portion has to be settled before probate is issued. The precise amount payable depends on the estate value, and we can help you ensure that you make full use of all personal allowances.

Filing probate application forms

Once the estate has been valued and tax settled, you can then apply for probate, by completing and submitting the necessary documents. This may be done online or by traditional paperwork.

Either way, it can be a challenging task for those not familiar with the process, which is why our experts are on hand to help.


Probate can be complicated and time-consuming. It often involves dealing with multiple organisations, individuals, and government departments. The probate process often take at least 12 months to settle an estate fully, if not longer.


Why choose us as your probate lawyers

We have an outstanding depth of experience and expertise in all aspects of probate management. For many generations we have helped families in the difficult times following the loss of a loved one.

As well as our specialised knowledge, we take pride in our care and commitment to clients. However many cases we deal with, we always remember that your story is unique, and we will build a bespoke package of service around your particular wants and needs.

That is why so many individuals and families keep coming back to us in their times of need, and why we have received so many accolades and awards for our standards of service.

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It is not a legal requirement to use a probate lawyer or practitioner. As explained above, you can apply for probate yourself and manage the process. However, it can be extremely complex and time-consuming for those without the right experience. That’s why many people choose to consult our specialists for help. We can support you or complete the process on your behalf. We can make sure everything is done correctly and at the right time.

Almost certainly, yes. Probate is the process of proving that a will is valid (if there is one) and confirming who can administer the estate. In order to recoup, transfer, sell or distribute any of the deceased's assets, you are likely to need a grant of probate.

Typically the whole process can take up to one year, if not longer.

An executor is the person (or people) responsible for sorting out the property, possessions, money and other affairs after someone has died. If there is a valid will, this will name an executor(s). If there is no will, or the appointed executors do not want to accept their appointment, then the person responsible for doing this work is called the administrator, and this is usually a beneficiary of the estate .

The executor or administrator can ultimately be held accountable for any mistakes made. They can however appoint a probate practitioner  as an agent to help administer the estate.