Managing an estate when someone dies

When someone dies the management of their estate falls to those left behind. This can involve:

  • Locating the Will;
  • Researching and assessing the value of the estate;
  • Collecting in assets and dealing with creditors;
  • Dealing with income, capital gains and inheritance tax liabilities;
  • Applying for the grant of probate or letters of administration;
  • Resolving disputes between beneficiaries;
  • Transferring the legal title of assets to beneficiaries;
  • Drawing up estate accounts.

Pricing and timescales

To provide you with the accurate and relevant pricing information to help you make a considered decision when choosing and purchasing legal services from our Wills, Trusts & Probate team please visit our Legal fees for Probate page.

How can we help you?

Estate less than £5,000

In general if the deceased left a Will and assets of less than £5,000 it is likely that the Executor will not need a solicitor to deal with the estate.

Estate over £5,000

If the estate is worth more than £5,000 then the personal representative will probably need to obtain letters of administration or a grant of probate from the Court and will need to complete and lodge an Inland Revenue account.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

HMRC now require full details of what is in the estate including gifts made in the past and assets passing by survivorship. We can help you with this and ensure that the right information is presented to the HMRC.

Is the Estate Tax-Efficient?

Our lawyers can advise you on the best way to administer the estate to minimise tax liabilities. At the moment, the law allows a beneficiary to vary the terms of a Will or the intestacy rules for a limited period where they affect his or her inheritance. If the beneficiary doesn't want or need the gift it can be to the benefit of future generations to use a variation to protect family wealth.

We can advise you on how a suitably drafted variation may reduce the tax payable on the estate or reduce the payment of tax by a beneficiary in the future.

Intestacy Provisions

If a person dies without leaving a Will they are said to have died Intestate and their estate will be distributed under the Intestacy Rules.

If a person dies intestate, the deceased's estate may not pass entirely to the surviving spouse or civil partner or children. Depending on size of the deceased’s estate, some of their estate could pass to any surviving children, which may have future impact on inheritance tax planning for the surviving spouse.

If you do not wish your estate to pass under the Intestacy Rules then it is important to make a Will setting out your wishes. It is especially important for unmarried couples to make Wills as there are no provisions under the rules for couples living together and your partner could end up getting nothing. Please note that there is also no provision in the intestacy rules for step children.

Inheritance Act Claims

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 certain family members and other dependants can make a claim against your estate if you don't make provision for them in your Will. A claim can be made even after the grant of probate or letters of administration have been obtained but there is a 6 month time restriction to do this.

Surviving spouses and civil partners are in a special position in that the court may well order that they should have a "fair share" of the family's assets. Other members of the family who were dependent on the deceased, e.g. children, may claim a share of the estate if the Will does not give them one. The other main class of person who can claim under the Act are cohabitees — defined as living as husband and wife for 2 years or more at the time of the death. In this case, the cohabitee does not need to have been strictly dependent on the deceased in order to receive provision.

Contesting a Will

There are many ways in which a Will can be contested, including that the Testator did not have capacity when they made the Will or they were under duress or an undue influence. The only persons standing to contest a Will must be someone named on the face of the Will, i.e., a beneficiary, and someone who stands to inherit from the Testator if the Will was invalid. A Will can be contested even after a grant of probate or letters of administration have been obtained but there is a 6 month time restrictions to do this.
Courts will not necessarily look to "fairness" during will contests. In other words, just because the provisions of a will may seem "unfair" does not mean that the will is invalid. Therefore, wills cannot be challenged simply because they seem unfair. A Testator has a legal right to dispose of his or her property in any way that is legal.

Deeds of Variation

There are many reasons why beneficiaries may wish to vary or redirect inheritances. The main reasons are to save inheritance tax by redirecting part of the inheritance to:

  • Children in order to take advantage of the IHT nil rate band (inheritance tax free allowance);
  • To alter the interests under a Will;
  • To redirect an asset (such as the family home) held in a joint tenancy which would otherwise pass to the surviving joint tenant; and
  • To provide for someone who has been omitted from a Will or who has not been given adequate financial provision in a Will.

Overseas Re-Seals

When someone who lives outside the UK dies, authority to deal with their estate is usually governed by a grant of representation from the country of their domicile. If the deceased also owned assets in the UK it may be necessary for an application to be made to ‘reseal’ the original Grant of Probate or letters of administration in the UK. This allows the personal representative to then deal with the assets. Resealing a grant is a relatively straightforward process and can be dealt with as soon as the original grant of representation of the country of domicile has been obtained.

Contact Us

For further information on how our Wills Trusts & Probate team can help you or your family please call:

Peterborough 01733 882800

Huntingdon    01480 411224

Oundle            01832 273506

St Neots          01480 702207

Cambridge      01223 463183

Or email the Wills, Trusts & Probate team at If you would like a specific office to contact you, please request the location in your email.