As a loved one, family member or executor of a will, it’s never easy to manage the estate of a deceased person, particularly if you’re not familiar with all the legal terminology. If the estate (the deceased’s assets and possessions) is complex or large, it can be even more complicated.
In these situations, making use of a complete estate service relieves the burden and provides all the help you may need. Whether a Grant of Probate has already been obtained or not, when you use an estate service, you remain the executor, but the estate is administered on your behalf.
What is an estate?
An estate is everything you own; this includes cash in the bank, pensions and life assurance, investments and insurance policies, your property, jewellery, cars, furniture and ornaments, even down to your prized set of golf clubs.
Therefore, everyone has an estate, even if they think they don’t. If you own it, it is part of your estate, and with the help of a good estate planning lawyer, you can make sure your estate is managed according to your wishes.
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is a clear and detailed plan on exactly how you would like your estate managed when you die. It also sets out your funeral arrangements and how you would like to be looked after during your lifetime if you are incapacitated, whether that’s temporary or not. This is done through the use of a Power of Attorney within your estate plan.
Although having a will is a good step towards estate planning, it does not cover various other aspects of your estate. The problem is that a will is only suitable after your death; an estate plan ensures your wishes are upheld during your lifetime, too. A good estate planning lawyer will be able to make sure that you have covered everything you need to consider in your estate plan.
For example, you may want to exclude someone or some people from your will, and an estate plan will make sure that what you want is followed. There is also less of a chance of your will being challenged after you die.
Planning your estate also means that should you need long-term care during your lifetime, your wishes on your care, as well as your financial affairs, are carried out according to your instructions. Estate planning includes:
- Lasting Power of Attorney – there are various types of lasting Power of Attorney, including a living will. They make sure your wishes are followed (even if it is a temporary hospital stay) and set out decisions for your ongoing health and welfare.
- Children/family welfare – you can make sure that your children if under the age of 18 years are looked after by a named guardian and ensure provisions have been made for their care and financial matters. You can ensure that any members of your family that need long-term special needs care are looked after in the way you want.
- Managing a business – if you run a business, you can set out a planned exit from the business for you and your family, if necessary.
- Tax implications – an estate plan also helps to ensure your family and/or beneficiaries don’t pay any more inheritance tax than they need to. In some cases, you may also be able to ensure that other related costs are kept to a minimum, too.
What does a good estate planning lawyer offer?
A good estate planning lawyer will offer a service that goes beyond just handling the paperwork. It covers:
- Confirming the eligibility of executors and applying for a Grant of Probate (if required).
- Reviewing the validity of the will and other related documents, like an estate plan.
- Considering applicable inheritance tax relief options relevant to the estate.
- Assessing the nature, extent and value of the estate’s assets and liabilities for inheritance tax purposes.
- Liaising with HMRC over the valuations of the estate’s assets and/or liabilities.
- Collecting the estate’s assets, closing accounts and discharging any estate liabilities.
- Liaising with asset holders on your behalf.
- Arranging insurance for any property that needs to be safeguarded during the administration period.
- Liaising with the Department for Works & Pensions regarding any liability arising from overpaid benefits or the ineligibility of benefits due to an oversight in providing full disclosure of capital or income.
- Liaising with charities and their designated offices on your behalf (if required).
- Discussing the basis of calculation of any past, current or future liability for inheritance tax, capital gains tax, income tax or any other taxes following an application for probate with HMRC.
- Arranging for any statutory notices to be published in The Gazette and local newspapers, if required, to stop any challenges to the estate.
- Arranging for the final distribution of the estate to named beneficiaries.
- Preparing the final estate accounts covering the period of estate administration.
- Stopping any unwanted mail addressed to the deceased and safeguarding against identity theft.
A good estate planning lawyer will work with you throughout the administration process and is always available with support and advice.
Benefits of using a good estate planning lawyer
There are a variety of benefits to using an estate planning lawyer, including:
- Help shoulder the burden of managing a deceased’s estate.
- Specialist probate solicitors who understand the administration process thoroughly.
- Legal professionals who understand the legal jargon used in documentation.
- Liaising with HMRC, insurance companies, pension providers and other representatives in settling any liabilities attributed to the estate. This includes closing any relevant accounts and obtaining life insurance funds on your behalf.
- Understanding the different tax liabilities that an estate incurs, including any potential tax reliefs that can be applied to reduce the tax burden.
- Completing and filing all the necessary documentation on your behalf, including applying for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, if no will has been left by the deceased.
- Ensuring all relevant tax exemptions and reliefs have been applied, that HMRC’s tax calculations are accurate and ensuring payment deadlines are met.
- Collecting all the estate’s assets, obtaining valuations (if necessary), and distributing the assets in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. If no will has been left, they will organise equal distribution between family members.
- Preparing and submitting final estate accounts that detail all estate transactions/payments, assets sold and distributed, debts settled and other related costs.
Probate is a time consuming, lengthy process, sometimes taking as long as a year or more depending on the complexity of the deceased’s estate. Although executors are entitled to manage the administration of an estate, any mistakes made in tax calculations or incorrect information on documentation will not only delay probate, it could hold you as the executor financially or legally responsible for the error.
At Probates Online, we offer a will writing service or a Complete Estate Service to help you through the probate process and estate administration upon the death of a loved one. If you are looking for advice on inheritance tax, gifts or trusts, or need to apply for a Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.