Wills and Probate

Making a Will

Making A Will

Making a will is a task that can so easily be left at the foot of your 'priorities list'. At Eccles Heddon we have several highly experienced lawyers who will guide you through the process to ensure that your wishes are carried out effectively. We will do so in a tactful and sensitive way. Unless there is great urgency, we will send you a draft of your will (along with an explanatory letter) to check and approve.

Our practitioners Alison Johnson, Michael Armstrong and David Shackleton are members of a specialist organisation called The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (or 'STEP' for short), which demands additional training and expertise in the areas of will drafting, tax planning, probate and trusts. You will therefore have the peace of mind to know that your will has been drafted by an expert lawyer, to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and to minimise complications for your family and dependants.

Of course, your circumstances or wishes may change over time. With that in mind, we advise you to regularly review your will and to take our further advice if you have any concerns. It is usually a straightforward task to make minor amendments or additions to your will. However, if substantial changes are needed, it may be that an entirely new will is required. We will be happy to discuss this with you.

We offer fixed fees for the preparation of relatively straightforward wills. Where your affairs demand a more detailed analysis and a more complex will, possibly involving trust arrangements, we will charge on a time basis, but will give you an indication of the likely cost before we begin our work for you. We will not charge for storing your will nor, as a routine, will we induce you to appoint our firm as your executors. There may be some cases where a client does wish to appoint a professional executor but we will always discuss the implications of this on an individual basis.

You may be aware of so-called “Will Writers” who are actively and in some cases aggressively seeking to enter the area of will preparation. Sometimes they will be introduced by tied or even independent financial advisers including some building societies. Such businesses are presently unregulated and, unlike solicitors, may have no form of insurance against their own personal negligence. The public authorities are sufficiently concerned about them to be considering compulsory regulation. In some cases Will Writers offer an attractively low price for preparing your will then hit you with unexpected extra costs. In most cases such Will Writers are not legally qualified and do not have the breadth of training in related areas which we can offer.

For more information on this area of our work, please contact David Shackleton, Claire Green (Ripon), Alison Johnson (Bedale) or Marie Nelson (Thirsk).

Probate (or dealing with the estate of someone who has died)

Probate

When someone dies it can be a confusing and emotional time for their family and friends. If that person has made a will, they will have appointed executors to distribute the estate in accordance with the provisions of that will. If someone has died ‘intestate’, i.e. without having made a will, those people who are entitled to apply to be administrators of the estate (usually the closest relatives who are called in legal terms the next of kin) will need to ensure that the estate is distributed in the way set out by the law. Where there is a will, the executors will often need to obtain ratification of their appointment by the Court through the process commonly known as obtaining Probate. If there is no will, the next of kin will go through a similar process known as taking out Letters of Administration.

We can assist the executors or administrators with practical matters, such as making funeral arrangements, which can be helpful if they are not based locally.

In some cases, often with lower value estates, or where most of the assets have been held jointly, there may be no need to apply for Probate or Letters of Administration. We can give no-nonsense initial advice to help you deal with matters cost effectively.

Where an estate is of greater value but may consist of just a few assets we can sometimes assist executors to take out Probate but have no further involvement. In such cases we can agree a fixed fee for our work.

In more complex cases, the administration of an estate can be a time-consuming task for those who are unfamiliar with the process or who may not have the necessary legal expertise. We will advise and offer guidance, both in obtaining the Grant of Probate and then in the administration of the estate and the distribution of assets.

It may be necessary to submit a detailed Inheritance Tax account and pay tax. We can produce the documents for you and will discuss the account with you so as to ensure that it is an accurate record of the assets upon which tax may be payable. In addition, we can also discuss how best to raise the tax which, contrary to expectation, often does not have to be paid in full before Probate is obtained.

In many cases we can agree a fixed fee. In others we will provide an initial estimate of our fees. If the administration of the estate proves to be more complicated than first envisaged, as is sometimes the case, we will discuss this with you and provide updated figures as the need arises.

Above all, since this can be a difficult time for those concerned, we will provide professional and practical advice in an approachable and sensitive manner.

For more information on our Probate services, please contact, David Shackleton, Claire Green (Ripon), Alison Johnson (Bedale) or Marie Nelson (Thirsk).

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