Probate & Estate Administration

When someone dies it is important to know who can administer the estate, what their role and duties are and what they can and can't do in terms of registering the death, organising the funeral and dealing with the assets, tax and other liabilities in the estate.  

If the deceased made a will, they will have appointed executors, who are the people responsible for dealing with the administration of the estate. If the deceased did not leave a will then the law dictates what happens to the deceased's estate and who is entitled to administer it. This is called intestacy and whoever is legally entitled to administer the estate are called administrators.  It is important that before you take any steps to administer an estate you establish whether the deceased left a will and whether you have any authority to act in the administration.

We recognise that the need to administer an estate can come at a tremendously difficult and emotional time for families and our private client team's experience in administering all types of estate allows us to offer advice and assistance in a sensitive manner whilst aiming to take as much stress as possible out of the process. Although our team is based in Westminster, London, we deal with estates across the country and estates where the deceased held assets abroad or was domiciled abroad but held assets in the UK.

Speak to our probate and estate administration solicitors in Westminster, London

Call our lawyers in London now on 020 7222 5381 or use the contact form above and we will get back to you soon.


Matters our probate and estate administration solicitors can assist with

  • Assisting with the initial practicalities after a death such as registration of the death and funeral arrangements.
  • Establishing the value of the estate by obtaining valuations for the deceased's assets such as property, savings and investments and personal belongings.
  • Preparing the Inheritance tax account and ensuring all Inheritance tax reliefs are applied where possible.
  • Applying for the Grant of Representation.
  • Collecting in the deceased's assets, including arranging the sale of properties and cashing in of stocks and shares and settling any inheritance tax due.
  • Dealing with the administration of any trusts established in the will or trusts the deceased benefited from during their lifetime.
  • Preparing post death variations of wills in order to mitigate Inheritance tax along with advising on any capital gains tax issues.
  • Preparing the deceased's final income tax return, along with the income tax returns for the administration period if applicable. 
  • Distributing the residue of the estate to the beneficiaries.
  • Dealing with any claims against the estate

Our probate solicitors’ fees

We generally charge at an hourly rate and once we have been provided with enough detail to know what assets and liabilities are in the estate, whether the estate will suffer an inheritance tax liability and how the estate is to be distributed, we will provide you with a quote. When we will act for the Executors or Administrators of the deceased’s estate, our probate fees are generally paid for from the estate.

Probate and estate administration FAQs

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of dealing with the property of a person who has died. A “Grant of Representation” is a document produced by the court which confirms that the Executors named in the Will, or the administrators of the estate if there is no Will, have the authority to deal with the deceased’s property. A Grant of Probate is applied for when the deceased left a Will, and Letters of Administration are applied for where the deceased died without a Will or the Will is invalid.

How long does probate take?

The first step in the probate process is valuing the deceased’s estate which will involve contacting all the institutions where the deceased held assets such as banks, investment companies and other financial institutions. It will also involve getting valuations of the deceased’s home and other property they may own. The value of any debts, such as loans, mortgages and credit cards will also need to be ascertained. If the deceased had assets and liabilities with lots of different institutions, this could take a few weeks or even months. The next step is to report the value of the estate to HM Revenue & Customs, if necessary, before sending the application for probate to a probate registry. The probate registry advice is that it is currently taking around 8 weeks to process applications, but in practice it often takes significantly longer. Once the Grant of Probate has been issued then it may still take a few months to wind up the estate completely.

When is probate required?

If the deceased held assets in their sole name, then it is likely that a Grant of Representation will be required unless the value of the estate is less than £10,000.

How do you know if you are named in a Will?

When a testator prepares their Will, they will usually check that the people they name as Executors are happy to act in this role. It is a good idea to let the Executors know they have been appointed and let them know where the Will is stored. Beneficiaries are often not told they are named in a Will and will be informed by the Executors that they are a beneficiary following death of the testator. There is no time limit in which the Executors must let the beneficiaries know although once probate is granted, the Will becomes a public record which can be viewed by anyone.

What does an Executor of a Will do?

If the deceased made a will, they will have appointed executors, who are the people responsible for carrying out the deceased's wishes as included in their will. In order to administer an estate the Executors will need to ascertain the value of all the assets and liabilities at the date of death, calculate any tax owed from the estate and apply for probate.  Once probate has been issued then the Executors can collect in the deceased's assets and settle any liabilities, administration expenses and any inheritance tax, income tax and capital gains tax if applicable. Once all the debts to the estate have been paid then the Executors will be able to distribute what is known as the residue of the estate to the beneficiaries.

What happens to a bank account when someone dies?

The bank account will remain open and active until the bank are notified of the deceased’s death, at which point it will be frozen. The funds within the bank account can be used to pay the deceased’s funeral invoice and can also be used to settle any inheritance tax liability. If the bank accounts only have a small sum of money in them, the bank may send the funds within the account to the Executors and close the account before probate is granted on presentation of the death certificate. In most circumstances the bank will need to see the Grant of Probate before releasing the funds. 

Who is responsible for debt after death?

The deceased’s estate is liable for any debts after death. The Executor or Administrator of the estate will be responsible for settling these debts but will not be required to use their own funds to do so. If there are insufficient funds within the estate to settle the debts then the estate is “insolvent”.

How long does an Executor have to sell a house?

There is no time limit in which an Executor must sell a house. In some cases, Executors choose to put the property on the market quickly after death to secure a buyer as soon as possible and to start the process. In other cases, Executors may choose to wait until they have the Grant of Probate and assess the market at that time, if they are not in any rush to sell. It is worth noting that Executors cannot sell the property until they have received the Grant of Probate as this gives them the authority to deal with the deceased’s property.

How long after probate is granted does it take to receive an inheritance?

The Executors cannot start distributing the estate to the beneficiaries until all the debts of the estate are paid. There is no set time limit, and it varies in each case. As a rough guide it could take anywhere from a few months to a few years to receive inheritance following the issue of the Grant of Probate.

Speak to our probate and estate administration solicitors in Westminster, London

Call our lawyers in London now on 020 7222 5381 or use the contact form above and we will get back to you soon.


  • Anna Gaston
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  • Catherine Pugsley
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  • Megan Morgan
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  • Elizabeth Cooper
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  • Beatrice Lewers
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  • Laura Southern
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  • Michael Fletcher
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  • Clare Bristow
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