You may be reading this blog in search of answers, maybe after receiving a letter from one or perhaps more heir hunters; maybe you even received a purple letter from us here at Family Wise Limited.
Given the unanticipated nature of said communication, you may be uncertain about the credibility of the claims stating that you could be entitled to receive an inheritance. If this is the case, or if you are just simply curious on the topic of probate, allow us here at Family Wise Limited to give you a crash course on the process, what it involves, and how we can be of assistance, should we be in contact with you regarding a potential claim to an estate.
Normally, when someone dies, they will leave behind a will for their loved ones. This important piece of documentation frequently includes information regarding who is to receive their estate (money, possessions, and property), and who is to administrate the process of distributing said assets.
The process of distributing the estate to the new rightful owners is known as ‘probate’, with the owner of the will often leaving the name of a relative/friend that they wish to administrate the process. This person is known as the ‘executor’.
The executor is expected to oversee the probate process, supplying and validating legal documentation, collecting other personal and financial documentation to apply for a ‘grant of probate’ (a useful resource outlining the documents required for the application of the grant can be found here), and eventually ensuring the estate is passed down to the correct beneficiaries (the people entitled to the inheritance). A grant of probate is important for the probate process, as it is legal confirmation that the executor is dealing with the estate.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate scenario of the death of a loved one, and you happen to be a named executor on the deceased’s will, the government’s advice can be found here. Here you can find the recommended steps to begin the process, what to do if more than one executor is named on the will, and how to renounce your right as the executor should you not wish to, or are unable to, oversee the process of the probate.
Sometimes, however, it is not that simple. In some cases, the deceased may not leave a will behind (often referred to as dying intestate, or a case of intestacy) – which consequently means that a relative may need to apply for a ‘grant of representation’; a legal document that not only includes a grant of probate but also includes a ‘grant of letters of administration’.
These documents allow a person, who is normally the next of kin or their legally appointed representative, to assume the position of ‘administrator’. This person, after attaining the required grant, is then able to administrate the passing down of the deceased’s assets. As there is no will, the estate is distributed amongst the next of kin in accordance with the UK’s intestacy law rather than to beneficiaries specifically named by the person who has passed away.
Some banks don’t require a grant of probate or grant of representation to release the assets they hold, if the deceased held less than a certain amount with them (in these scenarios a signed indemnity may be required). This, however, is only when the assets can be distributed easily, with no land, properties, or shares being involved. The probate registry fee of £215 to process a grant application is also only payable when the estate is worth more than £5000 overall. For a more in-depth breakdown of the maximum value of releasable funds for each UK bank without the requirement for a grant of probate or grant of representation, please follow this link.
Either way, once probate documentation has been obtained, it is down to the responsible executor/administrator to collect any of the deceased’s assets, pay off any debts that may have been owed using the funds of the estate (including loans/mortgages, and any other expenses throughout the probate), and then finally ensuring that the assets are distributed according to the will; or, if a will is not present, according to the rules of intestacy.
It is important to note that it is normally a requirement to pay some, if not all, of the inheritance tax before you are granted probate, should the estate be liable for inheritance tax. Rules around inheritance tax can be complicated but can be found on the government’s website here.
In some rarer cases, someone may die intestate, whilst also having no immediate kin. In these situations, the assets are held by Her Majesty’s Treasury Department. These are known as “Bona Vacantia” (ownerless goods). Here they are kept until an heir, or their representative, comes forward and claims said assets (this can be up to 12 years after the death with interest paid based on the held money, or up to 30 years with no interest paid), or until the qualifying period of 30 years ends – after this time the estate passes to the Crown.
This is where Family Wise Limited comes in, and if you are reading this, you may well have been contacted by us already. The aim of Family Wise Limited is to trace the family tree of deceased individuals to locate relatives that could be potential beneficiaries.
Normally the estate of a deceased person will be unknown to those whom we contact – often, the deceased person themselves may be. The aim of Family Wise Limited’s research is to prove your entitlement to a portion of the estate, and to make sure the estate is currently claimed and administrated on behalf of beneficiaries.
Family Wise Limited will help you throughout the process, agreeing a commission-based percentage fee, which is paid directly to Family Wise Limited before the estate is distributed to beneficiaries. With this, you can rest assured that you will be paying no expenses out of your own pockets to pursue the claim. Finally, following the conclusion of the necessary research, you will also be sent a copy of the constructed family tree and the research undertaken by us at no additional charge.