ESTATE ADMINISTRATIONMaking probate simple

What is Estate Administration?

Estate Administration (also known as “Probate”), is the process of dealing with an individual’s estate after they have passed away. Some people will choose to carry out the administration process themselves. Whilst this may be an option, there are many situations where it may be advisable to use a professional e.g. where inheritance tax is likely to be payable, where there are minor beneficiaries or trusts involved, where the validity of the Will is in question, or where the Will could be contested.

Acting as an Executor can be complex, and time-consuming. The process relies on specialist legal knowledge, and there are many things that could arise that may cause complications. Whilst it can be possible for a lay-person to deal with the deceased’s estate without a professional’s help, this often leads to delays and problems further down the line. Executors are also personally liable for any losses arising from their actions.

At Dunham McCarthy, our team and the various associates and specialists that we work with can help. Together we offer a comprehensive, and tailored service. We can help with anything from a Grant of Probate, to dealing with inheritance tax liabilities.

What are the benefits?


At Dunham McCarthy, we have the systems and team in place to keep your case moving forward. We are experts in this field, and are committed to ensuring that the estate administration process is completed with great efficiency. This will ensure that assets are distributed correctly, and as quickly as possible.


In the vast majority of cases, the costs of estate administration can be dealt with in full for a pre-agreed fixed fee. It is also possible for us to deal with various aspects of more complex estates on a fixed fee basis too.


We can either visit you at home, or you are welcome to meet with us at our offices. We will be able to discuss your requirements, and the full administration process with you.


Some people may be concerned about the costs of using a professional executor, and how to fund such fees. Where a person passes away and there are sufficient funds available, the costs of administration can be taken from the estate once any work has been completed.


Our associates can deal with the full administration process from start to finish, or just specific elements e.g. inheritance tax, capital gains tax or trusts. You are in control. We will only help where needed.


It can be a very difficult and emotional time for the family following the loss of a loved one. There can be a lot to sort out, and difficult decisions to be made. By appointing a professional executor, it will relieve the family of the stresses and burden of having to administer the estate.

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01785 336222
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Grant of Probate?

Where there is a Will in place, the executors named within it can apply to the Probate Registry for a “Grant of Probate”. This is a document that confirms the executors’ legal authority to deal with the estate.

If there is no Will, a relative can apply for a “Grant of Letters of Administration” instead. Both grants allow the Personal Representatives of the deceased to deal with assets as necessary.

Will a Grant always be necessary?

Where the deceased made a valid Will appointing executors, a Grant of Probate may not be necessary. It will depend on the extent of the estate, and the types of assets involved. Generally, where significant amounts of money or a property forms part of the estate, a Grant will be needed. It is worth noting that some banks, building societies and other organisations may only be prepared to release small sums after seeing a copy of the death certificate alone.

What happens without a Will?

When a person dies without leaving a Will, they are known to have died “intestate”. The Administration of Estates Act 1925 sets out who can apply for a “Grant of Letters of Administration” (the paperwork necessary to become the deceased’s Administrator).

The duties of an Administrator are broadly the same as those of an Executor. However, where a person passes away without a Will, the administration process will be more complex. The above legislation also dictates who will benefit from the deceased’s estate, and in what proportions. Broadly speaking, if there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the spouse will inherit everything. If there are surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, then the spouse will inherit all the deceased’s personal property and belongings, together with the first £270,000 of the estate and half of the remaining estate.

What happens to the deceased's debts?

The deceased’s Personal Representatives are responsible for making sure that outstanding debts left by the deceased are paid before any monies are distributed to the beneficiaries. If the deceased’s assets are insufficient to cover the debts, the estate would be “insolvent” and special rules would then apply. An Executor can be held personally liable if assets in an estate are distributed before all debts have been paid.

What is an Executor?

Executors are the persons appointed in the Will to complete the administration of the estate. They are responsible for protecting a deceased person’s property until all debts and taxes have been paid, and to transfer what remains to those entitled under the Will.

Where there is no Will, the people who are responsible for the distribution of that person’s estate are usually their next of kin. They are called “Administrators” and their responsibilities are effectively the same as those of the Executors.

Both Executors and Administrators are known as “Personal Representatives”.

What is an estate?

Someone’s estate is everything that they own. This includes their assets, whether real property or personal property, as well as their liabilities.

Can I be sued as an Executor?

As an executor, you are personally liable to any beneficiaries or creditors if they lose out as a result of any mistakes that you may have made. Additionally, you must pay any fines, taxes or interest charged to the estate as a result of administrative errors. Liability is extensive, so it may be useful to obtain legal advice when acting.

Can the Will be varied after death?

There are many situations where it may be desirable to vary the deceased’s Will. In this situation, all of the beneficiaries affected would need to agree to the variation. If any affected beneficiaries are minors, or lack mental capacity, a court will need to approve the variation. If the estate is taxable, the variation must be registered with HMRC.

How do I know that the Will is valid?

The Probate Registry Office will tell you if the Will is valid. If a Will has been properly signed and witnessed, things are most likely to be straightforward. You have no responsibility to investigate unless someone suggests that there is a problem.

How long does probate take?

This will vary from estate to estate, and will depend on many factors. These can include: whether there are properties that need to be sold; inheritance taxes to pay and if there are any disputes.

Most estates can be administered within 4-12 months, and in many cases interim payments to beneficiaries can be made.

Do I need a professional?

Being an Executor can be a complex, and time-consuming process. It can rely on special legal knowledge, and there are many complications that may arise. Whilst it is possible for a lay-person to deal with the deceased’s estate without a professional’s help, it can often lead to delays and problems further down the line.

Using a professional would be recommended, or even essential if:

  • There is inheritance tax payable
  • Business or overseas assets are involved
  • Minor beneficiaries are involved
  • Trusts are involved
  • The validity of the Will is in question
  • The Will could be contested

If you’re in any doubt at all, seek professional advice.

What are the associated costs?

It all depends on the value and complexity of the deceased person’s estate, and whether you use a legal professional. As a rule of thumb, administration costs are often between 1-5% of the value of the estate. These costs can be escalated rapidly where a Will is disputed.

Our Team at Dunham McCarthy, work with various specialists who can help and deal with everything. An indication of the likely costs would be provided at the outset, although as you will appreciate, unexpected problems can increase the costs as the administration progresses.

You can be held financially liable for any mistakes made, so careful consideration is required before attempting to deal with probate yourself.

Administration of an estate, both pre and post probate work can be completed. Fix pricing available.

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    Estate Administration

    Estate Administration