Wills & Probate Resources

All your question about wills and probate answered by our very own specialist solicitor.

Wills Probate Solicitor

My name is Shirin Wright. I am the wills & probate lawyer at Freeman Harris who has been in the industry for a good few years.

During this time I have had the opportunity to deal with a range of probate cases and written a number of wills. You can contact me at 0208 679 8900 or email me at shirin@freemanharris.co.uk.

Do i need a lawyer for a Will?

No, you do not need a lawyer to write your will, but it is highly recommended that you use a solicitor. This is especially true if any of the following would apply to your situation:

  • Your estate is worth £325,000 or more (therefore you are subject to inheritance tax.)
  • You are a business owner and you are leaving part or all of your business to someone else in your will.
  • You have property abroad, or foreign bank accounts or investments./li>
  • You have financial dependents who are not your immediate family.
  • Your wishes are complex (even slightly.)

You can use a DIY kit if your will is straightforward. Alternatively, you can use a will writing service to draft your will. We cover this matter in more depth in our post linked below.

DIY will kit, will writing service or solicitor – how to choose?

What happens if I don't write a Will?

Have you ever seen Heir Hunters? It’s all about what happens to people’s wealth if they haven’t written a Will. Control is relinquished into the hands of the court and the government will choose where best to redistribute your wealth. It could go to very distant family members you’ve never heard of or met, or it could end up back in the Crown’s and government’s own coffers.

Recent research has shown that over half of the people in UK have not made a will. In fact, the Times has reported that the value of estates belonging to people who died without a Will or heirs has almost doubled in 12 months. In 2012, the Treasury and the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster had benefited to the tune of £38.5 million. This is money that, had a Will been drawn up, may have benefited family members or friends instead.

Where do i find a copy of a Will?

You can obtain a will of a deceased person from the principal probate registry for England and Wales. This is only possible if probate has been granted. You can make a search in person by visiting First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1 6NP or call 020 7947 6939.

You can also visit the probate registry in your area to obtain a copy of the will. You can search for the nearest probate registry office by visiting the link below.

http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/infoabout/civil/probate/registries.htm

If probate hasn’t been granted, you can use a standing search. In this case, you will receive a copy of the will when probate is granted.

Can I change my Will?

Absolutely! Many people have a change of circumstance over their lives and will need to make a change to their Will. This could be adding new assets to your Will, changing your beneficiaries or any other other wishes you might have. You can contact us for further advice to begin changing your Will.

How do i know if the Will is valid?

The will must be in writing, signed by you and witnessed by two people. A will could potentially be invalid for a numbers of reasons eg. The testator lacked mental capacity when making the will and did not understand the effects it will have or the will was not made voluntarily and there was third party influence.

But I've lived with my partner for years. Why do I need a Will?

Unfortunately, the UK has no provision for ‘Common Law Husband and Wife’. This means that unmarried couples are not recognised as conjoined in the eyes of the law. If one partner dies without leaving a Will, then the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless they jointly owned property together. As an unmarried couple, it’s very import than you draw up the proper Wills to make sure that your surviving partners can inherit from you.

Can you dispute a Will?

Partially. There are occasions where a Will can be disputed. For example, if you think the person who wrote the Will was coerced at the time or writing, or not of sound mind. If you are serious about disputing a Will, we suggest you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

But I don't have a partner or any children. Why do I need a Will?

Unfortunately, the UK has no provision for ‘Common Law Husband and Wife’. This means that unmarried couples are not recognised as conjoined in the eyes of the law. If one partner dies without leaving a Will, then the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless they jointly owned property together. As an unmarried couple, it’s very import than you draw up the proper Wills to make sure that your surviving partners can inherit from you.

What is grant of probate?

Grant of probate is a legal document produced by the court. You can only obtain Grant of probate if there is a will in place. This document gives the right to the named executor to deal with the administration of the estate.

How does probate work without a will?

If someone dies without a will, they are known to have passed away “intestate”. In this case, the “rules of intestacy” are applied to the deceased.

The only people who can inherit if you die without a will are your married or civil partner, and certain other close relatives. Who inherits and how much they inherit depends on the value of your estate and your family situation when you die. The following flowchart shows how the inheritance is passed on.

What happens if you die without a will infographic?

What is the grant of letters of administration?

Where there is no will left, an application for a grant of letters of administration will need to be made. This document is issued by the court which gives the administrator to deal with the deceased estate.

What is an executor?

An executor is a person who is legally entitled to deal with a deceased persons estate that is named in your Will. The duties of the executors include collecting in all assets (Stocks, Savings, Cash, property, possesions), paying all debts owed and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with your Will.

What happens if the deceased hasn't left a will?

If there is no will left the rules of intestacy will apply.  The laws wills apply as to who inherits the estate.

Who can be the administrators?

Where the is no will left, administrators (personal representatives) of the estate would need to be appointed. The duties are the same as the executors which include but are not limited to collecting in all assets (Shares, stocks, Cash, savings, property and possessions). Where there is no will the intestacy rules apply when dealing with estate distribution to beneficiaries.

Where there is no one willing to act as administrators the beneficiaries may appoint professional to act/conduct the administration of the estate.

Where do i find a copy of a will?

You can obtain a will of a deceased person from the principal probate registry for England and Wales. This is only possible if probate has been granted. You can make a search in person by visiting First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1 6NP or call 020 7947 6939.

You can also visit the probate registry in your area to obtain a copy of the will. You can search for the nearest probate registry office by visiting the link below.

http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/infoabout/civil/probate/registries.htm

If probate hasn’t been granted, you can use a standing search. In this case, you will receive a copy of the will when probate is granted.

How do i know if the will is valid?

The will must be in writing, signed by you and witnessed by two people. A will could potentially be invalid for a numbers of reasons eg. The testator lacked mental capacity when making the will and did not understand the effects it will have or the will was not made voluntarily and there was third party influence.

What happens if no executors are named on the will?

Where no executors are named in the will or for one reason or another are unable to act someone will need to act in replacement.

Where there is a will, a beneficiary benefiting from the estate can apply to act as administrator.

I am named as an executor but do not want to act - what should i do?

If you have been named to act as an executor on a will you can exercise your right not to act as executor. Provided you have not already started to deal with the estate you can renounce your executorship.

When does inheritance tax have to be paid?

If the estate is worth more than  £325,000 inheritance tax may be liable. Inheritance tax must be paid within by 6 months from the date of death. There are certain exemptions available for Inheritance tax.

What happens with the debts owed by the deceased?

Debts that the deceased owes will be paid by the estate before distribution.

How long does the probate application take?

The time it takes to administer the estate of a deceased person depends on the size of the estate and the nature of the assets.

The initial process involves obtaining all the financial information about the desceased. This will allow the administrative team to learn about the deceased’s assets and liabilities. This financial information will be gathered from banks and other similar institutions.

If the estate is under Inheritance Tax threshold, then the grant of probate is obtained fairly quickly. If the  estate is over the Inheritance Tax threshold, then the process takes much longer. Specific valuations have to be done to insure that the inheritance tax return is completed correctly, and paid. Our estimates of a probate application are listed as follows:

  • No inheritance tax: 8-12 weeks
  • Inheritance tax: 14-16 weeks

Am i liable as an executor if i get it wrong?

Executors can be held personally accountable for any mistakes made during the administration of the estate. This is why it is imperative for executors to seek legal advice when administering estates.

I am an executor of a will that is being disputed. What do i need to do?

It would be best practice to wait until the dispute has been resolved before the estate is distributed. Where disputes arise legal advice from a solicitor should be taken.

What is an Attorney?

This is the person who you have nominated to look after your affairs.

What is an Attorney?

This is the person who you have nominated to look after your affairs.

What is Named persons?

These are people you have asked to be notified when your Lasting Power of Attorney is to be registered.

What is a Replacement Attorney?

This is the person who will look after your affairs if your first nominated attorney is not able to act.

Can i appoint two attorneys?

Yes, you can. In fact you can appoint as many attorney as you want, although they must be over the age of 18. You may not be able to check up on your attorney if you become mentally incapable, so it can be a good idea to appoint more than one person to help prevent possible abuse of responsibility.

It is important that you choose a person/people who you can trust to act in your best interests.

If you are appointing attorney under the Property and Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney they must not be bankrupt.

Is there more than one type of Lasting Power of Attorney?

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney:

i) Property & Affairs – allows your appointed attorney to make decisions about your property and affairs, for example paying utility bills or selling your property.

ii) Personal Welfare – allows your attorney to make decisions about your personal welfare for example where you should live.

Can my daughter/son make a Lasting Power of Attorney on my behalf?

No, only you can make the Lasting Power of Attorney.

Can i use my Lasting Power of Attorney once all relevant parties signed it?

No, the Lasting power of Attorney must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.

It is not essential that a Lasting Power of Attorney is registered immediately. It can wait until there is an indication that it may be needed. However, as it can take around 2 months for the registration process to be completed by the Office of the Public Guardian, this delay should be taken into consideration.

My son lives in France can he still be an attorney?

Yes he can, but consider whether it is suitable for him to be an attorney. What would happen if an emergency arose and the attorney was need at once?

Can i use my Lasting Power of Attorney once all relevant parties signed it?

No, the Lasting power of Attorney must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.

It is not essential that a Lasting Power of Attorney is registered immediately. It can wait until there is an indication that it may be needed. However, as it can take around 2 months for the registration process to be completed by the Office of the Public Guardian, this delay should be taken into consideration.

Can a Lasting Power of Attorney be cancelled?

Yes, you can cancel a Lasting Power of Attorney – providing you have the mental capacity to do so.

How much do you charge for making a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A single Lasting Power of Attorney costs £375.00 plus VAT, or a pair of Lasting Powers of Attorneys cost £600 plus VAT. This fee does include completing the registration process, however does not include disbursements such as the Office of the Public Guardians registration fee (currently £110, but a fee exemption may be available depending on your circumstances).