Tony Crocker

Tony Crocker is Director of IWC Estate Planning & Management Ltd. With over 15 years’ experience, he is knowledgeable and proficient in all matters regarding Probate, Will writing, Estate Planning and Inheritance tax avoidance. In addition, he has a wealth of experience in dealing with estate settlements and issues with the capital taxes office in the event of bereavement. As a member of the Society of Will Writers & Estate Planning Practitioners, he is widely respected within the field, having helped many people at difficult points in their lives through complex probate and tax issues. Tony Crocker

After death PPI claims

With the recent onslaught of companies claiming individuals could receive thousands of pounds through missold PPI claims, we are now experiencing the inevitable problem of what happens if a person dies with an outstanding PPI claim?
 
In order for a claim to progress despite the individual now being deceased, the next of kin must apply for probate.
 
In cases where a Will has not been prepared, the rules of intestacy state that only the next of kin can apply for probate and so it follows that only they can then progress with the PPI claim.
 
Even individuals with few or no assets, who think they may be liable to make a PPI claim, must consider the potential value of that claim when preparing a Will. To avoid writing a Will at all, particularly if there is no next of kin, could mean that thousands of pounds are lost when that claim cannot be continued after death.

Letters of administration in brief

When a person dies without a Will, or if the will that they have left has been deemed invalid, they are described as being 'Intestate.' In this situation a relative, or other person, must apply for Letters of Administration to deal with the deceased's affairs.
 
Dealing with the estate of someone who has died intestate can be a complicated process. The level of difficulty depends greatly on the amount of money, assets, and property that the estate contains. Further complications are caused by the number of beneficiaries that may have a claim to the estate. Generally speaking the more people that are involved, the more complicated it is to sort out, particularly if it is difficult to find some of the beneficiaries.
 
The first step in the process is obtaining the right to administer the estate. In normal circumstances, when the deceased has left a will, there is a named executor who can obtain a Grant of Probate enabling them to administer the estate. In cases of intestacy there is no executor. The task of administering the estate will then fall to a relative of the deceased, who must apply for Letters of Administration. This person is usually a spouse, or child. An adopted child may make the application, but not a step child. The applicant must be over 18 years of age.
 
If the deceased is survived by a parent they are the next in line for the responsibility. After this the application can be made by siblings, then grandparents, then uncles or aunts. Other relatives that may apply for Letters of Administration are nieces, nephews and cousins. In cases where there are no surviving relatives the state will then make the application.
 
Once the applicant has established the right to apply for the grant of Letters of Administration the next step is to complete the application form. If the value of the estate is above £325,000 then the applicant will also need to complete the Inheritance Tax forms at the same time. Following this the applicant will be required to attend an interview at the Probate Registry to confirm the details in the application. The Letters of Administration will then be delivered by post shortly afterwards.
 
If you would like to find out more information you can call our confidential free phone 7 days a week until 10pm on 0800 612 6105

Probate service fees

As with many other price increases that we have seen in recent times, the basic costs of probate fees have also risen. From April 2011 the cost of probate applications went up by more than 10%. Currently the probate application fee for non-solicitors or lay applicants is £105 up from its previous figure of £90. This amount comprises £45 for the application for grant and a further £60 for the personal application which is effectively the cost of attending the probate registry.
 
Here’s a breakdown of Government will and probate fees:
 
The fee for depositing a will for safe custody in a district or principal registry is £20. The price of an inspection of a will or any other document in the presence of a registry officer is also £20.
 
An Application for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, where the assessed value of the estate exceeds £5,000, is £45.  Resealing a grant costs the same.
 
A Personal application fee where the assessed value of the estate exceeds £5,000 is £60, this is essentially the cost to attend the registry.
 
A special application or duplicate/subsequent application in respect of the same person is £20. This includes an application following a revoked grant and excludes a grant limited to settled land, part of the estate, or to a trust property.
 
Copies of all documents involved have a surcharge regardless of whether they are provided as certified copies or not. For the first copy the charge is £6 and for every subsequent copy of the same document is £1 if they are supplied at the same time. If the documents are provided in electronic format the price per copy is £4.
 
You can view the Government report here which details all probate charges including searches, oaths and entering in a caveat. 
 
 
If you have any other questions about the various costs involved, don’t hesitate to call us free on 0800 612 6105

Where to get Probate Advice

If you have been named as the executor in a will you have the responsibility for dealing with the assets of the deceased. It is also your duty to distribute the proceeds of the estate according to the wishes of the will. If, like many lay administrators, you have little experience in dealing with these types of matters, the administrative requirement may appear somewhat overwhelming.  probate advice.
 
For most people the initial advice in dealing with probate is to appoint a solicitor to handle matters. There are many solicitors that are experienced with this type of work. They can offer an inclusive service dealing with aspects from obtaining the Grant of Probate to the payments of taxes and liabilities. Some executors may be advised to consider handling the administration themselves. This advice is usually given if the estate is small and relatively simple in terms of the assets and beneficiaries.
 
Whichever solution you opt for the first step is to seek out some good probate advice. There are a wide variety of locations online where you can obtain advice and guidance. As with any advice, when it comes to matters involving property or money, any recommendations are best observed with a degree of caution.
 
There are some websites that have been designed to offer completely impartial advice with regard to matters of probate:
 
Government direct.gov.uk  has an informative death and bereavement section with full advice on what to do when someone dies.
The National Probate Advice Centre  offers some clear guidance in sections dedicated to property clearance, solicitors, accountants, estate agents and more.
The Citizens Advice Bureau has a section dedicated to probate advice which offers helpful information on debts, tax and benefits, jointly-owned property, inheritance tax and more.
 
For indepentdent advice, you can also our free helpline on 0800 612 6105.

More about Unclaimed Estates

On average the Treasury department absorbs a massive £10 million annually from unclaimed estates in the UK.  This is despite the fact that there is plenty of support available for heir hunters to track down their inheritance.
 
There are many reasons that these fortunes remain unclaimed. In some cases there are simply no living relatives and the deceased is the end of the line within their family tree. This is not that common and for most of those who pass away there are usually some living relatives, however distant.
 
In order to have a rightful claim to an inheritance the family line can be connected via a grandparent of the deceased. Disparity of family spread is often a problem in connecting the estate to a relative. In some cases relatives of the deceased have relocated abroad and have had little or no communication with the deceased over a long period of time.
 
Whatever the reasons for not making a claim, with such a large amount of money at stake, there are a number of specialist firms that make a living out of reuniting people with unclaimed inheritance before the treasury can lay its hands on the money.
 
From the point of death the clock is ticking on an estate. Relatives have 12 years to come forward and claim the inheritance. If they do so within that period they can also collect any interest that the estate has accrued. Ultimately the claimant must come forward before 30 years has elapsed, but a payment during this period is at the discretion of the Treasury Solicitor. No interest can be collected on the estate for the final 18 years.
 
When someone dies intestate The Treasury Solicitor advertises in national and local newspapers. They give out the details of the person's name, the value of their estate, and the location and time of death. At this point the genealogists, employed by the big heir hunting law firms, will begin to piece together the family tree of the deceased.
 
These firms do not come cheap and will charge anywhere between 25% and 40% of an estate for their services. They will ensure that a contract is signed before any of the details of the deceased is given to the relative.
 
If you would like to find out more about our low-cost genealogical research service contact us free on 0800 612 6105

Considering Probate Costs

For anyone who has taken a taxi ride across a city, to a previously unknown destination, there is a jarring sense of uncertainty as you watch the meter ticking over. Every corner seems to add additional miles to the clock and, just when you are in sight of the destination, a one way system seems to take you further away. When you do finally get there the cost is invariably more than you had originally bargained for.
 
This analogy can also fit when considering probate costs. Although the initial costs may not seem too high there are innumerable elements in the probate process which can serve to increase the eventual cost far beyond original estimations. Among the many potential complications with the administration of probate are factors like contested wills, beneficiaries that cannot be located, or documents that have been lost. All of which will result in a hike in the overall price.
 
If you are paying probate fees to a solicitor this price increase is likely to be quite substantial. Every additional letter and document copy will be scaled in to the overall costs. There is also the costliest commodity to consider; time. In addition to the expenses caused by delays, the administration of probate happens at a very sensitive time. If the process becomes unnecessarily protracted it will not allow those involved the closure that is required at this point.
 
In order to ensure that you do not fall foul of the myriad of additional costs that you may incur during the probate process the best solution is to find a practitioner that will give you a fixed cost up front. Obviously a fixed quote will help you avoid all of the hidden probate fees that can hike the costs up beyond all expectation. This will also give you the peace of mind knowing that the process is being handled by a practitioner with expertise to complete all the required aspects efficiently.
 
To find out more about our low cost option call free on 0800 612 6105

Making an Application for Probate – The Basics

When a person dies it is a legal requirement that their estate has to be administered. This means all their assets must be collected together, and all of their debts must be paid. Once this has been done what is left over may be distributed to those people who are entitled to it. The process of the administration of an estate is called Probate.
The administration of an estate is carried out by 'Executors' who may also be known as 'Personal Representatives'. If the deceased left a will, it normally contains the names one or more executors. In some cases they might be friends or family. In other cases this task may be entrusted to a professional, such a solicitor, or a Probate Practitioner. It is the first task of the executor to apply for Probate.
 
Probate is the authority, given by the court, to a person or persons to administer an estate. The document which is issued by the Probate Service allowing this is called a Grant of Representation, or Grant of Probate. When there is more than one executor it is essential that all delegated parties work well together to decide what needs to be done, as disagreements can lead to delays which may be expensive.
 
There are several steps in the Application for Probate. These may differ depending on the size and nature of the estate.
 
The first step is one of preparation. This involves the registration of death and obtaining all the relevant documents. Then the executor must ascertain the values of any assets and check for liabilities. At this stage all of the beneficiaries must be contacted and any initial enquiries to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) should be made.
 
The next step is the preparation and submission of Inheritance Tax forms and the application form for the Grant of Probate. Once the Grant of Probate has been received it must be registered with all of the asset holders.
 
Once these steps have been complete the executor may begin with the collection of assets and complete any outstanding income tax affairs such as dealing with Inheritance Tax. They may also begin with the payment of smaller legacies.
 
For further information with regard to the an Application for Probate call the free advice line 0800 612 6105

First steps when applying for probate

Initial Actions
The first step in an application for probate is to contact your local Probate Registry for information and advice. They will have a Personal Application Department with staff that will help with the required forms and procedures to assist with the ‘Grant of Probate’, or letters of administration. After that you will have to carry out any remaining administration yourself.
 
The Capital Taxes Office, which is a branch of HM Revenue and Customs, can help in cases where Inheritance Tax is payable. When dealing with tax it is imperative that you do not make any mistakes, or omissions, as these could have financial consequences that will fall on your shoulders.
 
If you are undertaking the probate application process yourself you must have a clear understanding of what you are doing and all of your obligations. If you are unsure then why not call our probate free helpline on 0800 612 6105?

Next Steps
If you are undertaking the application process yourself then the second step is to obtain copies of the death certificate. It is a legal requirement that all deaths are registered. At this point the person registering the death, known as the informant, will receive a death certificate. The informant is usually a relative of the deceased who:
 
·         was present at the death
·         was present during the last illness
·         who lives in close proximity to where the death occurred
·         or a person (not a relative) who was present at the time of death
 
An informant can be an administrator, or executor. If you are administrator or executor, but not the informant, then you are required to ask the informant to obtain three copies of the death certificate when registering the death. Each copy of the certificate will cost £3.50. This should be done at the point of registration as obtaining copies at a later date is more complicated and expensive.
 
Establish Authority
The next step in applying for probate is to establish from the will that you have the authority to act as executor, either by yourself, or in conjunction with someone else. If you are a joint executor you must decide what each person involved is going to do. This must be agreed and signed by both executors. Even when the responsibilities have been divided both executors are required to sign all of the probate documents and claim forms.
 
After the application is complete and the roles have been established you will need to start administering the estate. If the deceased has left a deed box this is a good place to start. Here you should find important documents relating to insurance, savings and property. You should set up your own file for of all of the information and communication involved in the process.

17 situations when it’s best to use a professional to apply for probate

A small minority of families apply for probate themselves. This course of action can only realistically be considered if you have both the time and the management skills required. Although it can give you the kind of satisfaction that is to be gained from taking responsibility for completing the financial affairs of the deceased, this decision should not be taken lightly. The application process can become very complex and unless it is a simple estate it can take between 6 and 9 months to complete.
 
Individuals applying for probate will do so either because they have had some experience in this field, or they are dealing with a very straightforward estate. Generally this indicates that the deceased did not own property of any kind and their personal wealth was below a level that would be liable for Inheritance Tax.
 
There are a host of reasons which can cause the application to become problematic. These include:
 
1.       If there is a problem locating the will
2.       There are concerns about the validity of the will
3.       There is a chance that the will might be contested
4.       The locations of the beneficiaries are not known
5.       The terms of the will are unclear
6.       If the estate is subject to Inheritance Tax
7.       For an estate that is greater in value than £250,000
8.       When there is no will and the deceased was married with children
9.       When there is no will, the deceased was married and the total value of the estate is over the Inheritance Tax threshold of £325,000.
10.   If the estate might be liable to Inheritance Tax and the spouse, or civil partner, of the deceased has died previously with none or some of the inheritance allowance used at that time.
11.   When there is no will and the total value of the estate is greater than £450,000 and the deceased left behind a husband, wife, or civil partner with no children
12.   Regardless of whether there is a will or not, when part of the estate is bequeathed to children below the age of 18
13.   When part of the estate is money, or property, in a trust
14.   When the deceased was a partner in, or owner of, a business
15.   When the deceased owned property, or land, that has an unregistered title
16.   When the deceased owned property, or land, abroad
17.   If the estate has been declared insolvent
 
There are many companies that offer probate services. However, it is wise to be sceptical as, for some, the motivation is to gain as much of the estate as is possible. For example banks and building societies will take a whopping 5% of the estate for this service.
 
IWC are independent probate practitioners and offer a low cost fixed fee to handle probate on your behalf. If you are unsure about a probate application call us on 0800 612 6105 for free help and advice.

Owning woodland as a tax incentive

If you own woodland as part of the portfolio of your estate, it can help to reduce your final Inheritance Tax bill.
 
Woodland relief means that the value of the timber on that plot of land can be excluded from the overall value of your estate. Bear in mind however, that this only applies to the timber itself, and not to the land on which it is planted.
 
Under the rules of Woodland relief, should your beneficiaries then sell the timber after your death, they may find that IHT then falls due on the monies raised from the sale.
 
If the woodland does not quality for Woodland relief, it may then qualify for Agricultural Relief, or Business Relief, if it can be classed as a business investment.

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