Wills & Probate

Wills and Probates explained

Here at Spratt Endicott, we are a highly experienced wills and probate solicitors and whatever your situation, we always endeavour to reach the best possible outcome, providing a level of service that is second-to-none. This section of the website provides information on what wills and probate lawyers do and in which circumstances you may need legal assistance, as well as providing an indication of Will writing costs and how the process of probate works.

David Endicott is a Director and head of the Wills and Probate department. David is also a supervisor for his team.

What does a will do?

Sometimes things aren’t as straightforward as a person dying and their assets being passed onto their nearest and dearest. If you die without a will (intestate), your property is automatically distributed in accordance with Intestacy laws, which isn’t always necessarily how you would choose it to be. Writing a will can ensure that your property goes where you intend it to.

Spratt Endicott’s Wills Solicitors can help you write your will, looking into all aspects, including the division of property, executors and trustees, as well as power of attorney. As experienced will solicitors, we will discuss all your needs and put any worries you have at rest. We provide a wills preparation service to clients across the UK from our Banbury location.

Why should I make a will?

Writing a Will can ensure the security of your loved ones, if you have children you can make sure they are looked after by the people chosen by you and also secure their financial future. In some cases, if you don't write a will it could cause hardship and suffering for your family, and legal costs. It is safe to say that wills ensure peace of mind for the future of your family. In short, if you make a will, then you are calling the shots – rather than the government.

What if I don't make a will?

If you choose not to make a will, then you are leaving a lot in the hands of Intestacy rules and risk:

  • The devolution of your estate
  • Taxes
  • The future of your children

In the case of infant children, you are possibly trusting them to the good care of the local Social Services. 

Surprisingly only around 30% of the population ever makes a will. 

Dying Intestate: What does this mean?

Failing to create a will, will mean that you die intestate, which in simple terms, means that the distribution of your assets will be done in accordance to Intestacy rules and not necessarily in accordance with your wishes.

If you die intestate with an estate of, say, £400,000, what would happen?  It does depend upon who survives you.   If you have no children then your estate passes to your husband or wife, but if you leave a child then it becomes quite complicated. 

Under the intestacy rules your surviving spouse will receive your personal chattels and £250,000.  What is left is divided into two:

  • Half going to the child at once if they are 18 or over and in trust if they are not
  • The other half going in trust for the spouse, passing to the child on the spouse’s death

Because a trust arises, two Trustees are required and so if the child is an infant, you will probably need to rope in Uncle Fred or cousin Charlie.
Suppose:

  • You are married and or in a civil partnership and there are no children
  • You have worked hard and have left an estate of, say, £600,000
  • You would prefer that that £600,000 went, free of tax, to your surviving spouse or civil partner

Well, if you do not make a Will, it will not.  The surviving spouse or civil partner will take personal chattels and £450,000, and half the remainder.  
The other half may go to your parents, or if there are none, to your brothers and sisters, or to nephews and nieces. Remember, this applies:

  • Whether you like those relatives or not
  • Whether you think it is appropriate or not

By not making a Will, you put yourself into the hands of the Intestacy Rules - which most people agree are not very attractive.

Writing a Will

When writing a will, it is crucial there are no mistakes. This is mainly so that there can be no dispute over what the will is trying to say or what the words mean.

Estimating the Cost of your Will

For an immediate estimate of your will cost, either for a single or joint will for you and your spouse/civil partner/co-habitant please fill out our cost estimate form on this page.

Logging your Personal Assets

After the death of a relative, it can sometimes be confusing for the family when finding all of the documents and information needed going forward.  To simplify this we have produced a Personal Assets Log.  This downloadable file can be accessed below.

Completing this and leaving it with a copy of your will and any other personal papers will help your family trace the information they will require at that time.

In this document you may also like to leave details of funeral/burial arrangements and any wishes you may have regarding these.

The Duty of an Executor

When a person dies and leaves a valid will, they will have appointed Executors to deal with their property, money and personal items (the Estate).

What do Executors do?

The Executors have a duty to:

  • Look after any assets
  • Sell or collect them in
  • Pay any debts, expenses or inheritance tax due from the Estate
  • Distribute what is left to those entitled under the terms of the will 

Often the Executors need a document to perform these duties, called a Grant of Probate. 

Probate Explained

Probate is the way in which a person’s estate is distributed when they pass away. If a will is written, then an executor is appointed and a probate lawyer will assist them in applying for probate and estate administration. In some cases, the executors choose not to act and are not legally required to; sometimes probate lawyers are named as executors, but it is generally a family member and a beneficiary of the Will.

Probate law can be quite complicated and overwhelming when you're grieving, so many executors ask the probate lawyer to help apply probate and administration.

Our qualified probate lawyers and solicitors can help advise you in how to apply for probate, and what to do in cases where an executor does not wish to act in this role. Our legal services will help ease the burden of the probate process and offer advice in situations where no Will is written and where there are family disagreements.

What is a Grant of Probate?

A grant of probate is a document issued by the court, which just confirms that

  • The people named are those that are entitled to deal with your affairs when you are gone and have the authority to do so.
  • The Will made and proved is valid and is not subject to challenge (although it is possible for this to happen for up to six months after the Grant has been issued).

When is a Grant of Probate needed?

A grant of probate is often needed to confirm to those holding assets (Banks, Insurers, Share Registrars) that they are dealing with the right person and that it is ok to hand over assets or cash to them. It is almost always needed when selling property in an estate as it can confirm to the buyer that they are dealing with the person with authority to sell and therefore they can continue the chain of ownership.

Obtaining a Grant of Probate

If a Grant is needed, Executors can make a personal application to the Court or they can instruct a Solicitor to do this for them. A Solicitor will prepare the correct account for submission to H M Revenue & Customs and the appropriate Oath for Executors. These documents are signed and sworn by the Executors and an application made to the Court. There are, however, instances when a grant of probate is not required, this is usually when assets can be transferred to a joint owner by merely producing a copy of the death certificate. 

How much does a Grant of Probate Cost?

If you’re applying for a Grant of probate with a solicitor, there is an application fee, plus legal fees. The legal costs can vary, depending on the complexity of the estate, so you can contact us for an estimate and to discuss options before you begin the process.

Understanding Statutory Declaration

The purpose of a statutory declaration in the form of a formal statement is to confirm that something is true, to the best knowledge of the person making declaration. They are often used by financial institutions to deal with the accounts and assets of a deceased customer if the sums are fairly small, transferring money to the executor(s).

This confirms that the executor making the declaration is the correct person to deal with.  Cash will then be released to them, with no need to do anything further.

How do I make a Statutory Declaration?

You will sign a Statutory Declaration with a solicitor present or another person that is authorised by law e.g. a Justice of the Peace or Commissioner for Oaths. In order to be valid, the declarations must follow a pre-existing format and a solicitor that is experienced in wills and probate will be ideally placed and can witness and draft a statutory declaration if it is required.

Getting in touch

To learn more about how we can help you when it comes to understanding wills and probates, please contact David Endicott on 01295 204005 or dendicott@se-law.co.uk.