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    Administration of Estates Factsheet
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When someone dies there is long list of things to do, not least of all grieve!

Suffering a bereavement can be a very difficult and stressful time and here at Taylor Bracewell we are here to help.

So how do you know what to do and where do you start? Who do you need to inform? Who can arrange the funeral? Who can deal with the assets? The answers to these questions depend on a number of factors, including whether the deceased left a valid Will and who their family members are.

Dealing with a bereavement can be devastating, not knowing what to do or where to turn. Here at Taylor Bracewell, our Personal team are highly experienced in dealing with such matters and are here to help and guide you through these difficult times.

The person who has legal authority to deal with a deceased's affairs has a hefty burden on them to ensure that all the correct laws are followed, all debts are paid, any taxes are paid, all beneficiaries are paid … the list goes on.

The way in which an estate will be administered will depend on whether the deceased left a Will or not. When someone dies without a Will this is known as an Intestacy.

The administration process will also be determined by what assets are held in the deceased's name. It may be necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation - known as a Grant of Probate when there is a Will, or a Grant of Letters of Administration where there is no Will.

Sometimes it may be that the deceased did not manage to get their affairs in order before they died and their Will may not be up to date, or their affairs could have been put in better order in order to save Inheritance Tax. In some circumstances it is possible to make Variations to a Will of a deceased.

When you have deciphered who is legally entitled to what it is necessary to determine whether a Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration where there is no Will) is required.

Losing somebody is a very sad and confusing time. With a long list of things to do it can often be difficult know where to begin and can be very stressful.

Here at Taylor Bracewell our team have a wealth of experience in dealing with the administration of estates. Our Solicitors can assist you with any part of the process. Our team will resolve everything sympathetically and as quickly as possible to allow you to grieve without any undue stress.

If your require any help or advice in relation to the administration of an estate or any other area of law please telephone our department on 01302 341414 or 0114 272 1884 and one of our team will be able to advise you.

Download our Administration of Estates Factsheet for a more detailed guide as to what is involved when someone dies.

Intestacy

When a person dies leaving a Will there will be people named as the Executors - these are the people who have the responsibility of ensuring that the deceased’s estate is administered correctly, all debts are paid and that the beneficiaries receive their inheritance.

When someone dies without having made a Will it is known as dying intestate. There are strict legal rules as to who does what when someone dies without a Will and the Intestacy rules must be followed.

Under the rules of Intestacy there is a strict legal order as to who may apply to be the Administrator (the equivalent of the Executor) in an intestate estate. It is essential to ensure that you take the appropriate legal advice to ensure you are not doing something you have no authority to do.

The Intestacy rules also determine who inherits the deceased's assets and in what proportion. Failure to administer the estate correctly can be a very costly mistake and for this reason professional advice should always be sought.

Download our Administration of Estates Factsheet for a more detailed guide as to what is involved when someone dies.

The Grant

A Grant of Representation is often called 'Probate' or a 'Grant' but what is it?

The Grant provides legal authority for the Personal Representatives to deal with the deceased's affairs. Whilst it is not always necessary to obtain a Grant, it is generally required if the deceased had assets worth more than £5,000, owned any stocks or shares or owned any land or property.

Variations of a Will

Dying is not something people like to think about and this can often mean that a deceased's affairs were not in order at the date of their death.

For example, what happens if the deceased left a Will which leaves everything to someone who doesn't want or need the inheritance?

What if the beneficiary wants to give their inheritance to someone else - can they do this?

What if the result of the deceased's death is a large tax bill that could have been avoided with better tax planning?

A Deed of Variation (sometime called a Deed of Family Arrangement) is a document which enables a Will (or even an Intestacy) to be varied in certain circumstances. This can be a fantastic way of ensuring that everyone's wishes are met and unforeseen circumstances are avoided.

However there are strict rules as to when a Deed of Variation will work so it is essential to take professional advice on any variations of Wills before anything is done.

A Deed of Variation must be entered into with 2 years of the deceased's death. It is therefore essential to take advice on an estate as soon as possible to ensure that no deadlines are missed.

Contentious Probate

Disputing a Will

Dealing with the loss of a partner, or friend or relative, can be a difficult time. This can be made worse if family disputes are thrown into the equation, or if you have reason to believe that you have been treated unfairly. In some circumstances it may be possible to dispute a Will and redress the balance. However there should be sound reasons for wanting to dispute or contest the validity and/or content of a Will.

 

Grounds for a Dispute

Normally, the deceased's estate should be distributed among the different beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will. You cannot generally dispute a Will simply because you feel that you have not received enough assets or because an item the deceased promised to leave to you is not available, unless of course you have a legal right to such an item. There must be a valid ground to base your claim on and this can be any or a combination of reasons ranging from financial dependency as a spouse or registered civil partner or the improper conduct of the Executors.

 

Entering a Caveat

If you feel that you may have a case, we will provide you with specialist legal advice. We will ensure that immediate steps are taken to prevent assets being wrongly passed to other people. One of the first steps our contentious probate solicitors in Doncaster and Sheffield will look to take, where appropriate, is to enter what is known as a 'caveat' at the Probate Registry. The essence of the caveat is so that the Grant of Probate which allows the executors to take control of the estate and distribute the assets can be delayed. During this period, no Grant of Probate will be granted by the court.

The most appropriate legal action we will advise and assist you in taking will depend on your particular circumstances. It may be that the best approach is to have an initial discussion with the Executors of the Will about your concerns. We will attempt to enter into negotiations with them on your behalf and see if an agreed solution can be arrived at. Any solution or agreement reached with the Executors and/or beneficiaries such as an agreement to change the terms of the Will in your favour will be effected by using a Deed of Variation. Where we are unable to reach a favourable agreement with the Executors and beneficiaries on your behalf, taking the matter to court to formally contest the Will may be the best option. Prior to that however, our Wills and Probate specialists will weigh the strength of your case and advise you of the costs likely to be involved.

 

When can a Will be challenged?

A summary of the grounds on which a Will can be contested or deemed invalid are as follows:

 

Invalid Will

These are some of the reasons why your Will or the Will of a loved one may not be considered valid by law.

  1. A Will is not valid unless it is signed by the testator; i.e. the person making the Will and the signature is witnessed by at least two witnesses.
  2. If the testator is believed to have acted under undue influence or where 'testamentary capacity' was lacking when the Will was made and/or amended. Testamentary capacity means that the person making the Will is fully aware of what they are doing and not suffering from any medical condition which limits capacity, such as dementia or Alzheimers.
  3. Changes in circumstances such as marriage, registered civil partnership and divorce may invalidate an otherwise valid Will. The exception here would be where the Will was made with the marriage or partnership in mind and the spouses are named.
  4. Drawing another Will invalidates an existing one
  5. Destroying a Will deliberately with the intention that it should no longer be used in the event of your death invalidates your Will

Similar considerations apply to any 'codicils', testaments and related documents setting out changes to one or more of the terms of the original Will.

If a Will can be shown to be invalid, then the situation is treated as if the deceased died without making a Will unless there is a prior Will. This is known as dying Intestate and the Rules of Intestacy will be applied to the distribution of the estate. If a codicil is invalid, then the original Will remains in effect without the changes made by the invalid codicil.

 

Contentious Probate Services we offer

At Taylor Bracewell Solicitors, we boast of some of the most respected and experienced Wills and Contentious Probate lawyers in South Yorkshire. If you would like to contest an invalid Will or dispute what appears to be foul play in a Will, the actions of an Executor or even a trustee, our lawyers will be more than happy to assist.

Our experts will start by examining the details available to first and foremost determine if indeed there has been foul play such as a forged signature on the Will. We have exceptional expertise and significant experience in challenging Wills which are invalid on account of:

  •    The testator being of unsound mind at the time the Will was drafted or amended
  •    Undue pressure and influence was placed on the testator by the other beneficiaries or any one
  •    The signatures of the testator and the witnesses were not appended in accordance with relevant rule
  •    Financial dependents have been cut out of the Will

We understand that this can be a difficult time and that the stress of dealing with a Will dispute can add to the heartache and grief that you are already going through at the loss of your loved one. Our specialists have a very thorough approach to matters with the sensitivity that can be expected at a time like this.

Whether you are defending a claim or you are challenging a Will yourself, getting the expertise of an experienced lawyer is essential. We appreciate how difficult this period can be for you and your loved ones. With our highly sensitive approach, meticulous professionalism and legal knowledge, we will strive to keep your case out of court room litigation where possible while protecting your best interests. The solutions and legal assistance we offer are practical, straightforward and designed to be in the client’s best interest.

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