Ask the Experts

What is the difference between Executors and Trustees?

Executors are the people you appoint to deal with the administration of your estate after you have died. Trustees are the people you appoint to administer any ongoing trusts contained in your will. Both roles can be fulfilled by the same person.

When do I pay inheritance tax?

The current threshold (nil rate band) for when an estate pays inheritance tax is £325,000 and anything over and above that will be taxed at 40%. However, since the Finance Act 2008, a married couple will be able to combine their allowance giving them a combined total of £650,000 on the current figures.

How can I ensure that my estate is protected for my children?

If you leave your estate outright to someone (e.g. a spouse), they are free to use and dispose of it as they wish. If they get re-married, they may decide to favour their new spouse and children may lose out. To prevent this from happening, you may wish to include a trust within your will to ring-fence assets for your children.

If I die, everything will go to my spouse automatically so I don’t need a Will?

If you die without a Will, your estate is dealt with in accordance with the rules of intestacy and who your estate passes to will depend on the value and the members of your family.

What happens if the person who has died hasn't made a Will?

If someone dies without a valid will they are intestate. There is an order of people who can then deal with the estate and inherit it. Please speak to our team for advice about seeing who is entitled to deal with matters.

How many executors need to act?

You can appoint up to four people to act as executors in your will but normally one or two will act in the estate. It is better to appoint at least two as if one of them is not able to act; there is another person who can deal with your affairs. If your will leaves assets in trust you may want to have at least two who can deal with the trust once your estate has been dealt with. You can also appoint professionals to act as your executors with your family or friends.

Do I have to act if I have been appointed as an executor?

When someone is appointed under a will as an executor they can act but may choose not to, perhaps because they don’t have time to deal with the estate administration, maybe they are in poor health, or are one of a number of executors and are happy to leave it to the others to deal with matters particularly if they live abroad. An executor can have ‘power reserved’ to them which means they step aside to enable the other executors to deal with the estate administration but can step in at a later date if they need to. If they don’t want to be involved in the estate at all, they can renounce their appointment as an executor by signing a deed of renunciation. They can only do this however if they have not had any dealings with the estate since the death.

How long does it take to get a Grant of Probate?

There are a number of steps to be taken in dealing with an estate and each estate can vary widely depending on the nature of the assets, the value of the estate, how quickly institutions respond to queries and also on the number of beneficiaries involved. On average we find that an estate may take between 6 and 12 months to administer. See our Probate Checklist for more information on the estate administration process and how we can help.

What is a Grant of Probate?

A Grant of Probate is a court order which gives authority to the executors to deal with a deceased’s estate. If there was no valid will, the order is know as a Grant of Letters of Administration and is issued to administrators. You sometimes also hear the term ‘personal representatives’ which can mean either an executor or an administrator.

What do I need to do when someone dies?

There are a number of steps to take immediately after a death, including registering the death and contacting the executors if the deceased made a will. See the attached Probate Checklist for more information on the estate administration process and how we can help.

I am an attorney, can I make gifts out of the donor’s money?

Only on customary occasions and only amounts that are reasonable in relation to the donor’s finances as a whole. If you want to make larger gifts than this, usually you would need the court’s approval.