How to help reduce the stress of dealing with a loved one's estate

It's not a topic that people think about until they have to, but understanding the practical process of probate can help ease the heartache during devastating times, as Gloucestershire's WSP Solicitors explains.

By Emma Luther  |  Published
WSP Solicitors helps families complete the probate application, easing frustrations when people hit a brick wall.

WSP Solicitors has several experienced members of staff to offer help and guidance to those going through some of the most difficult and traumatic times of their lives.

SoGlos catches up with Gloucestershire's WSP Solicitors to learn more about the challenging topic of probate.

Meet the expert – Robert Selwood, co-head of wills, trusts and probate at WSP Solicitors

Robert Selwood started his legal career as a trainee solicitor with Morrison & Masters in Swindon. Following completion of his training contract, Robert worked for eight years at Winterbothams in Stroud.

After taking a break from practicing law to work as a procurement specialist, he returned to WSP’s wills, trusts and probate team in 2017 based in Stroud.

In 2021, Selwood became co-head of wills, trusts and probate at WSP Solicitors. He advises clients on the preparation of wills and powers of attorney, setting up and administering trusts and on estate administration. In 2022, Selwood became a board director of WSP Solicitors. 

When a loved one dies, what’s the first thing you should do legally?

The first step is to contact the registry office in the locality of the person who had died to register their death. 

What is probate?

Probate is the legal right afforded to a representative(s) that enables them to deal with someone’s property, money, and personal possessions (being their estate) following a person’s death.

How does the process work?

There are several steps to the process of obtaining probate following registration of death.

Firstly, steps should be taken to ascertain whether the person who has died left a will and/or any other testamentary document. Then, the representatives handling the estate administration should look to contact any financial organisations that the deceased person may have used, such as their bank or building society, with whom they may have personally banked with, to gauge whether probate will be required to access their assets.

Once information as to the values of assets and liabilities has been collated and confirmed, the representative(s) will need to determine whether they will need to pay any inheritance tax before probate can be obtained.

The representative(s) can apply for probate via submission of an online application or by post to the HM Courts Service, once they have valued the estate. There is a probate administration fee due, which is currently £273 plus £1.50 per office copy.

Once all assets have been called in and liabilities settled, then the representatives would look to distribute the estate.

How can WSP help?

We have several experienced members of staff who can provide help and guidance to those people who are going through what is usually a very difficult and traumatic time of their life.

In most cases, we would be able to help at any stage of the estate administration process, not least by helping with the preparation and submission of probate applications.  

Are there mistakes you often regularly see that you’d like to iron out?

We regularly come across matters where the representatives have personally attempted to complete the probate application and have hit a brick wall, so to speak, or have completed the application with insufficient and, even, incorrect information (not deliberately, of course).

The application to obtain probate can appear relatively straightforward but there are hurdles to be faced, not least being that the representatives need to ensure that any inheritance tax due is settled before the probate application is submitted.

Although there is guidance online about the need to address inheritance tax, it is still regularly overlooked by representatives, in my view.     

Have you had any success stories that have made a huge difference to a family?

It is very difficult to talk about success stories in this field of work. Ultimately, my colleagues and I always strive to provide a recently bereaved family with that additional level of reassurance that the estate of their loved one can be effectively administered, with little stress. Achieving this is very rewarding.

Drawing from my own personal experiences, I would say that those matters where we have been able to successfully settle an inheritance tax issue with HM Revenue and Customs tend to make a huge difference to the bereaved family.  

Is there anything about the probate process you’d like to highlight to our readers?

If you are handling the administration of an estate, then before you jump into applying for probate, make sure you spend some time familiarising yourself with what your duties are as the representative and what information you will need in order to complete the application for probate.

Delays with incorrectly submitted applications can lead to considerable delays arising, further costs and additional unwanted stress in connection with the administration of the estate that might otherwise have been avoided.   

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