Probate refers to those who are charged with the administration of a person’s estate when they die. That means a family member, friend, accountant or other professional can become a personal representative.
What is Probate?
These representatives are either the executors, as detailed in the will, or those determined by the rules governing the situation where someone dies without leaving a valid will (intestate).
In order to have the authority to administer the deceased’s estate and distribute the assets, the personal representatives need to apply to the probate registry, for a grant of representation. There are two types of grant:
- A grant of probate, applied for by the executors where there is a will
- Letters of administration, provided in cases where there is no will
Probate is, in essence, the process of obtaining a grant of representation by a deceased's executors so that they can administer the estate and deal with the affairs of the deceased.
Is a grant of Probate always required?
There are some exceptions when typically it is not required to obtain probate:
- The deceased assets are worth less than £5,000
- All of the assets pass directly to a joint owner e.g. spouse (NB: property owned as 'tenants in common' do not pass directly via survivorship, but pass via the estate)
These are two of the more typical exceptions, it is however best to check with your professional adviser before assuming that probate is not required.
Probate - how long does it take?
The timescale for applying for probate varies greatly from one estate to another and depends on the complexity of the estate. As a general guide the process takes between six and twelve months. The process can become protracted from time to time with delays to collating information and in terms of HMRC’s processing of applications.
Now your accountant or tax adviser can file for probate
As trusted advisers, we have traditionally been able to assist with preparing the grant of probate and particularly the Inheritance Tax Return. However, we have not been able to file for the grant of probate itself as this is a reserved legal service and previously could only be provided by solicitors.
Since December 2014, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has become an approved regulator for probate services. This means that, once licenced, an approved Chartered Accountant and ICAEW member can now provide clients with a full probate service, whether this service is provided as a standalone one or in conjunction with fellow professionals from within the legal profession.
Streets, as a leading accountancy and tax practice, is amongst the members of the ICAEW to be licensed to provide probate services*.
Streets Probate Team
The Streets Probate Team is headed up by Partner Linda Lord, who as a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), is experienced in both estates and trusts as well as dealing with the tax and broader financial affairs affecting clients and their families. Linda is supported by members of the firm’s tax practice who are well-versed in inheritance tax, wills, trusts and estate planning.
Linda is supported by Michael Ball who is a Tax Partner with the firm, a Chartered Tax Adviser and a member of the firm’s Probate Team.
Streets Chartered Accountants' Probate Service includes:
- Advice and support with Inheritance Tax Planning and will preparation
- Advice and support in relation to Lasting Powers of Attorney
- Advice, support and assistance with estate administration and probate including:
- Establishing the value of assets and liabilities in the estate
- Placing statutory notices in newspapers
- Review of all paperwork, including the death certificate
- Calculation of inheritance tax due and preparing the Inheritance Tax Return
- Making the application for grant of probate
- Receiving the Grant of Probate
- Collecting in the estate and distribution in accordance with the will
- Advice on the use of Trusts for tax and succession planning
Fees in relation to undertaking probates services typically are quoted and charged for on a fixed fee basis. Fees in relation to dealing with a deceased estate tend to vary according to the complexity of an individual’s affairs and the nature of the assets and liabilities.
Fees charged therefore may vary in accordance with any one or more of the following circumstances:
- Whether there is a surviving spouse or civil partner
- If there is a will and its whereabouts are known
- If there are any executors to the will, and if so, how many are there
- If the deceased granted a power of attorney to anyone
- If anyone was financially supported by the deceased at the time of their death
- How many beneficiaries there are
- The type and number of any bank or building society accounts
- Whether there are any private pension arrangements
- Whether there are any securities such as gifts, bonds or unit trusts
- If there are any assets held offshore
- The value of any property and its occupation
- Whether the estate is taxable
- The value of any gifts given within seven years before the death of the deceased
- If separate probate will be required to administer assets held overseas in a foreign jurisdiction
Our fees for administering the estate of a deceased and assisting with probate are in the region of £1,500 plus VAT to £10,000 plus VAT.
Our probate team members hourly rates are as follows:
- Probate Partner: £350 plus VAT
- Probate Director: £175 plus VAT
- Tax Assistant: £75 - £100 plus VAT
The benefits of using Streets Chartered Accountants’ Probate Service
It is often the case that over the course of our client relationships we are amongst the few outside close family who have a real appreciation of the financial and tax affairs of our clients.
This knowledge can be extremely helpful in assisting and advising on probate, not least because we have a real appreciation of the deceased's intentions. It is also not untypical for us to already be working with other family members.
This relationship is helpful at such a time of loss and grief, helping to relieve the pressure and stress of dealing with probate.
For further information on Streets’ Probate Service and/or advice on dealing with an estate please use the contact form below.
*Licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to carry out the reserved legal service of non-contentious probate in England and Wales.
Details of our probate accreditation can be viewed at www.icaew.com/probate under reference number C001224050.
Probate Services – Streets Tax LLP
Diversity Survey Evaluation
Streets Tax LLP has conducted a diversity survey, the purpose being to gather evidence to encourage a strong, independent, diverse and effective profession.
In 2023 60% of the staff members were female and 40% were male.
Probate Compensation Scheme
As we are licensed/authorised for the reserved legal activity of non-contentious probate, in the unlikely event that we cannot meet our liabilities to you, you may be able to seek a grant from ICAEW’s Probate Compensation Scheme. Generally, applications for a grant must be made to ICAEW within 12 months of the time you become aware, or reasonably ought to have been aware of the loss. Further information about the scheme and the circumstances in which grants may be made is available on ICAEW’s website www.icaew.com/probate
Details of the firm’s complaints procedure are included in the firm’s client letter of engagement and supporting ‘Key Facts’ document.
If you would like to talk to us about how we can improve our service to you, or if you are unhappy with the service you are receiving, please let us know by contacting the Head of Legal Practice stated in Key Facts. We will consider carefully any complaint that you may make about our probate services as soon as we receive it and will do all we can to resolve the issue. We will acknowledge your complaint within five business days of its receipt and endeavour to deal with it within 8 weeks. Any complaint should be submitted to us by letter.
If we do not deal with it within this timescale or you are unhappy with our response you may of course take the matter up with our professional body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales https://www.icaew.com/regulation/complaints-process and the Legal Ombudsman. Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman should be made within six years of the act or omission or within three years of you becoming aware of the issue, and in either case within six months of our written response to your complaint to us. The contact details for the Legal Ombudsman are:
Letter: Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ
Telephone: 0300 555 033