Probate & Estate Administration

Moore Kingston Smith’s combination of solicitors, tax specialists, accountants and financial advisers offer a collaborative and tailored approach to deal with the tax and legal issues that arise when administering an estate.  We ensure that all matters are attended to with efficiency, empathy, a practical understanding of cash flow issues and a recognition of different family dynamics that can create tensions at a difficult time. We recognise that the death of a loved one often means important changes in family life. Ensuring that the family doesn’t have to worry about issues such as dealing with the authorities, passing assets to beneficiaries and making returns to HMRC is our prime objective.

As an accountancy firm with solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, we are well placed to deal with personal and business assets, and our multi-disciplinary approach enables us to draw on knowledge from across the firm to ensure that any businesses in an estate continue to operate as smoothly as possible providing reassurance for your loved ones as well as the business.

Explore our services

Choose a tab to read about our services in more detail.

How can we help?

In order to help clients navigate through the process of administrating an estate, we divide the process into two distinct stages. The first of these is the application for the grant of probate or letters of administration. This is the document that will allow you as the Executors or Administrators to access the assets in the deceased’s estate. The second stage involves the collection of the assets and their distribution to the beneficiaries either under the terms of the Will or under the intestacy rules.

Stage 1 – Up to and including the receipt of the Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry

The tasks we will carry out on your behalf will typically be as follows:

  • meeting with you to discuss the probate process, review and interpret the Will (if there is one) to identify any trusts, contingent gifts or failed gifts and provide a plan of action. If there is no Will then we will assist in identifying who will inherit the estate under the intestacy rules.
  • reviewing the deceased’s papers and ascertaining their relevance to the administration of the estate.
  • notifying the various asset holders of the death and obtaining official probate valuations of the assets and liabilities at date of death. This is required for the inheritance tax account which will be submitted to HMRC when we report the estate.
  • analysing any significant lifetime gifts that the deceased made in the seven years prior to their death and the tax implications of such gifts;
  • notifying the authorities and other relevant third parties to obtain further valuations and income tax information. (There may be a separate charge by the institutions for providing official valuations);
  • maintaining and collecting data for the purposes of completing the inheritance tax return;
  • calculating the inheritance tax liability, if any, taking account of any allowances or exemptions;
  • analysing whether any of the assets qualify for relief from inheritance tax;
  • completing the inheritance tax return and supporting schedules and taking you through the form to ensure its accuracy;
  • preparing the Statement of Truth and probate application and lodging the application for probate with the Probate Registry;
  • placing statutory notices in local newspapers and the London Gazette to protect the estate against claims by unknown creditors;
  • dealing with the deceased’s tax return for the tax year up to the date of death;
  • notifying beneficiaries of their entitlement under the Will.
  • all correspondence, advice and meetings required to keep you up to date.

Stage 2 – Collection and Distribution of the Estate’s assets

Once the grant of probate or the letters of administration has been obtained, this is used to collect the assets and distribute these to the beneficiaries of the Will or under the intestacy rules. The tasks involved for this stage include:

  • physically collecting in of all the assets (for example: closing the bank accounts, bonds and investments, selling or transferring shareholdings and other assets as required) and holding cash in a segregated legal services client account;
  • advising you of the tax and legal implications that relate to the transfer of any assets that you wish to keep in place;
  • obtaining HMRC clearances and deal with reasonable queries raised by  HMRC in respect of valuations, calculations and inheritance tax generally. Any additional work relating to disputes with HMRC over the valuations submitted may need to be agreed and our fee estimate adjusted accordingly
  • preparing and filing the estate income tax returns for the period of administration (these are separate to the personal returns that may be required by HMRC for the deceased up until date of death).
  • advising on the setting up of any trusts established by the Will and/;or requirements to terminate such trusts. Note that any legal work required for this would be agreed and charged separately from the estate administration.
  • preparing estate accounts to provide a clear analysis of the estate assets and liabilities and the subsequent distributions to the beneficiaries of the estate to enable the executors to meet their legal obligations correctly;
  • making the final payments out and moving the ownership of the assets from the estate to the residuary beneficiaries.
  • advising executors of their ongoing role as executor of an estate and whether measures such as deeds of indemnity should be implemented to guard against potential claims against the estate.

This list is intended to give you an idea of the most common tasks involved in an estate administration. We will agree an outline for our engagement with you prior to commencing the legal and tax work required.

Tax services

At Moore Kingston Smith, we can deal with both the legal and tax aspects of estate administration. By engaging with the executors, we can undertake the necessary steps to notify HM Revenue & Customs and prepare the tax returns to the date of death and for the administration period of the estate, if required.

We can advise on the tax consequences of passing assets to beneficiaries and look at whether these assets should be liquidated or distributed directly to the beneficiaries, as well as advise on the tax implications of making deeds of variation.

As an accounting firm, we are very well placed to deal with any business assets held by the deceased and can provide appropriate support in terms of handling these assets from a practical perspective.

On request, we can also call upon our FCA regulated financial advisers to provide advice on investing the estate’s assets and develop a strategy to manage and protect these assets that is bespoke to your circumstances.

Our tax, legal and financial planners work together to ensure that all aspects are covered so that you get the advice and support from one place.

Our fees & disbursements

Our fees

We charge on a time-spent basis which means that we will only charge you for work we have completed on behalf of the estate. Our initial meeting is at no charge to the estate and we use this as an exploratory session to gather information on the estate which will enable us to provide you with an estimate for the work to be carried out. Our fees are not based on a percentage of the estate and we do not charge a responsibility fee. You are welcome at any stage to request a timesheet showing the time spent attending to your matter and the tasks undertaken. We will always agree a fee estimate with you before starting work. The fee estimate will be reviewed as your matter progresses and it at any time it becomes apparent that more time will be needed to complete the work (for example if additional assets are located in the estate; HMRC have lodged an objection to a valuation submitted in the inheritance tax return), we will discuss a revised fee estimate with you before proceeding.

The hourly rates at which our time is charged depends on the experience of the individual who works on each task. We make every effort to ensure that tasks are handled at the appropriate and most cost efficient level. For example, an experienced solicitor will complete and talk you through the contents of the inheritance return while a paralegal (supervised by a solicitor) will usually liaise with asset holders to obtain the probate valuation of assets within the estate and deal with the daily administrative tasks. See our “Meet the Team” section below for the hourly rate of each individual who may work on your matter.

Disbursements

The administration of an estate will incur administrative costs that can be paid from the estate. We will pay these in the first instance and they can be repaid from the estate when it has the funds to do so. These costs, known as “disbursements”, include:

  • Probate application fee of £155 plus £1.50 per additional court certified copy (typically one copy is required per asset);
  • Asset holders, such as those that hold shareholdings, may charge a fee for a probate valuation which will vary on a case by case basis;
  • Bankruptcy-only Land Charges Department searches (£2 per beneficiary). This is to protect the Executors from mistakenly making a payment to a beneficiary that is subject to a bankruptcy order;
  • Notice in the London Gazette and in a local newspaper to alert potential creditors to the estate of approximately £200. This is to protect the Executors against unexpected claims from unknown creditors.

To help provide you with an estimate of our likely fees, below we provide examples of three estates of varying complexity which we have administered on behalf of Executors our approximate fees in each case. The precise details of the estate have been amended to protect client confidentiality.

Example 1

The deceased’s Will left everything to his wife, so there was no inheritance tax liability.

The majority of the deceased’s assets; being a property worth £800,000 and bank account funds of £150,000, were held jointly with his wife. A grant of probate was not required for the transfer of these assets to her. However, the deceased’s shares in the company of which he had been a director, which were worth approximately £250,000, and around £13,000 in sole bank accounts did require a grant in order to be transferred. As such, an application for probate to the Probate Registry was required.

Despite lifetime gifts made by the deceased increasing the value of the estate that was subject to inheritance tax, the estate fell below the threshold required for a formal inheritance tax account to be filed with HMRC. No official clearances were needed prior to applying for probate. A simpler form, known as an IHT205 could be filed with the application for probate that was sent to the Probate Registry.

The deceased had appointed his wife, close friend and only son as executors of the estate. The son and friend were overseas at the time of death and opted to renounce their appointment, leaving the wife as the sole executor. We assisted the deceased’s wife, with the application for probate, including liaising with our team of tax advisors on the valuation of the deceased’s shares in his company.

Once the grant was obtained, we also assisted the family’s financial advisor with claiming the pension benefits owed to the spouse (these fell outside the value of the estate for inheritance tax purposes) and transferred the title of the family home into the wife’s sole name.

Our fees for assisting the executor of this estate came to around £2,000 plus VAT and disbursements.

Example 2

The estate consisted of a bank account in their sole name worth around £100,000, a share portfolio of £25,000 and various life assurance policies that totalled roughly £280,000. In addition the deceased owned a half share in a property valued at over £2m with the surviving spouse which was subject to a mortgage of £200,000. The entire estate passed to the deceased’s surviving spouse in accordance with his Will so there was no inheritance tax to pay. However, given the value of the assets in the estate a full inheritance tax account was required to be filed with HMRC and appropriate clearances obtained.

Some of the deceased’s assets were also owned in joint names so no grant of probate was required to transfer the assets. We also liaised with the deceased’s financial advisor as they dealt with the redemption of the life assurance policies and transfer of pension benefits to the surviving spouse.

In addition, estate accounts were prepared so that there was a clear analysis of the assets and liabilities. This could assist with the application for the transfer of the tax free allowance on the death of the surviving spouse.

Our fees for assisting the executor of this estate came to around £4,000 plus VAT and disbursements.

Example 3

The estate comprised a residential property to be marketed and sold, a portfolio of shares worth £100,000 and some funds in various bank accounts. As the estate passed to the deceased’s children rather than to a surviving spouse or a charity, the entire value of the estate was chargeable to tax.

The deceased also had a right to income from a separate trust and consequently the value of the assets held in that trust formed part of the chargeable estate for inheritance tax, even though the beneficiaries of the Will were not entitled to the trust assets. This meant working with the representatives of the trust to ensure that the correct amount of tax was paid and the funds transferred were correctly allocated by HMRC.

As the estate included a residential property that passed to the deceased’s children, we calculated the value of the additional tax allowance, known as the “residence nil rate band”, available to the estate. As the property sold shortly after the date of death for more than the original valuation obtained, we liaised with HMRC to agree a final probate figure.

Taking all of the above into account, the inheritance tax liability amounted to around £120,000. We arranged for the tax to be paid on an instalment basis so that the funds would not have to be found to meet the entire tax bill until the property was sold. We also liaised with the companies that held the cash and the shares to settle the tax bill that was immediately payable.

The Will included money gifts which had to be paid before the distribution of the estate was passed to the children. Once the tax and the gifts were paid, we drafted estate accounts that were approved by the Executors before distributing the assets to the children.

Our fees for assisting the Executors of this estate were around £10,000 plus VAT and disbursements.

Example 4

The estate had an interesting mix of assets which qualified for Business Property Relief (i.e. no inheritance tax was payable on these assets); assets which had the potential to qualify for Business Property Relief; as well as a wide portfolio of investments and shares with four different investment managers totalling over £5million. The net value of the estate was £15m. In addition, the deceased had made numerous cash gifts in his lifetime. The Will created a discretionary trust over assets that qualified for relief from inheritance tax. The residue of the estate was left on a flexible life interest trust for the surviving spouse.

Drawing on the expertise of our tax advisors a report and analysis on the availability of Business Property Relief over the assets which qualified for relief and had the potential to qualify for relief was produced. Our internal experts were able to value the various private companies owned by the deceased.

The administration of the estate required a careful analysis of the lifetime gifts made by the deceased in the seven years prior to his death as well as analysis as to whether any of the gifts made could be exempt from inheritance tax. We did this by reviewing the deceased’s income and expenses in the seven years prior to his death with a view to establishing if any of the gifts would qualify for relief from inheritance tax. The value of the gifts resulted in an inheritance tax charge of around £500,000.

The Will (drafted by the deceased’s previous advisors) made provision for the surviving spouse and children which were not suitable. Our legal and tax team were able to find a solution that worked for the family from not only a legal perspective but one which was tax efficient as well.

Due to the nature of the investments and the amount of income earned during the administration period, the estate tax returns were complex and having our legal and tax advisors working in tandem ensured a smooth administration process for the client.

Our fees for assisting the Executors of this estate were around £140,000 + VAT and disbursements, representing less than 1% of the value of the estate.

Timescales

The time required to complete the administration of an estate varies according to, among other things, the terms of the Will (if there is one), the number and nature of the assets and the time taken by asset holders to provide information and release assets. However, even straightforward estates can take six months to complete when the time taken by HMRC and the Probate Registry to process the estate is taken into account. An estimate to the time required to administer a straightforward estate is given below.

Stage 1: where an estate includes one property only and up to five bank accounts and there are no other complicating features, completing Stage 1 typically takes between eight and ten weeks from the date of instruction. Where there are complicating features, such as there being numerous assets in the estate or the deceased made significant lifetime gifts, the length of time to make the application for probate is likely to be extended.

Stage 2: Depending on the nature of the assets, collecting and distributing the assets and providing you with estate accounts is likely to take around six to eight weeks once the grant of probate is received. This stage will take longer to complete where there is a property to sell or there are income or capital gains tax to settle.

Meet the team

Moore Kingston Smith is uniquely placed to assist Executors or Administrators of an estate as our tax and legal specialists work collaboratively to make the process as efficient as possible. Mahendree Naidoo, a senior solicitor with over 14 years’ experience of helping clients to administer estates, oversees all probate matters. The tax aspects of the estate is supervised by Lynne Rowland, a partner in the firm.

Legal Team

Mahendree Naidoo – Director and Head of Private Client Legal – £405 per hour plus VAT

Mahendree has over 14 years’ experience in advising families and individuals with preparation of wills; inheritance tax and lifetime planning including lifetime trusts; powers of attorney and the administration of deceased estates. Her experience covers work in these areas internationally, as well as in the UK. Mahendree has experience in administering estates with assets outside of the UK, namely South Africa; Australia; Canada; United States of America and Hong Kong. She is Head of the Private Client Legal team at Moore Kingston Smith and works closely with the firm’s tax advisers and other professionals to ensure that clients receive a seamless service which covers all their tax and legal needs. Originally from South Africa, Mahendree is dual-qualified as an Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa and a Solicitor of England and Wales. Mahendree spends are time equally between administration of estates and advising clients on their Wills and estate planning. She is known for her empathetic approach and finding the best solutions to suit her clients.

Richard Burgess – Senior Solicitor – £260 per hour plus VAT

Richard studied French and Italian at the University of Warwick before completing his Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course with the College of Law, now the University of Law. Richard qualified as a solicitor in 2014 and has since assisted many clients from the very beginning of a complex estate to bring the matter to an efficient and timely conclusion.

Richard typically spends half of his time attending to probate matters and the remaining half preparing and addressing matters relating to Wills, various forms of trusts and lasting powers of attorney.

Bharathy Paramalingam – Trainee Solicitor – £100 per hour plus VAT

Bharathy read Law at Queen Mary, University of London and then went on to complete her Legal Practice Course at the University of Law in Moorgate.

Bharathy assists the lawyers in the legal team with the drafting of Wills, trusts and the administration of estates, as well as with legal work relating to corporate law and employee share schemes.

William Hilliard – Trainee Solicitor – £100 per hour plus VAT  

Will studied History at the University of York and then went on to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course at the University of Law’s centres in York and Leeds respectively.

Will supports the fee earners in our private client legal team with their work on the administration of estates and the drafting of wills, trusts and lasting powers of attorney. Approximately 70% of Will’s time is spent assisting with probate work.

Tax team

Lynne Rowland – Partner – £545 per hour plus VAT

During a tax career spanning over 30 years, Lynne has spent the majority of her time advising individuals rather than corporate entities.  Lynne is CTA and ATT qualified, as well as completing her Financial Planning Certificate and successfully attaining her Certificate in Probate and Estate Administration Certificate in 2014 as an early advocate of the joint SRA/ICAEW initiative.  Lynne works closely with the legal team to ensure that clients receive the joined up legal and tax advice they need when considering inheritance tax, later life issues generally, trust and estate planning and probate.

Claire Roberts – Partner – £545 per hour plus VAT

Claire qualified with the Chartered Institute of Taxation in January 2013 and has worked in private client tax services for over nine years, advising a diverse range of clients including individuals, partnerships and trusts and estates. Claire obtained her Certificate in Probate and Estate Administration in December 2017 and now increasingly assists the legal team in dealing with probate matters.

Claire spends the majority of her time advising clients on a wide range of areas such as succession planning, asset protection and domicile and residency planning whilst the rest of her time is spent overseeing tax compliance.

Frances Hume – Manager – £265 per hour plus VAT

Frances studied Accountancy with Finance at the University of Glasgow before qualifying with the Association of Taxation Technicians in January 2014. In July 2017, Frances obtained her Certificate in Probate and Estate Administration and has since assisted with the tax aspects of probate work and estate administration.

Frances qualified with the Chartered Institute of Taxation in July 2018. As a member of the private client services team, Frances advises clients on tax compliance and planning as well as succession planning and residency issues.

Complaints

We want to give you the best possible service. However, if at any point you become unhappy or concerned about the service we have provided then you should inform us immediately, so that we can do our best to resolve the problem.

In the first instance it may be helpful to contact the person who is working on your case to discuss your concerns and we will do our best to resolve any issues at this stage. If you would like to make a formal complaint, then you can read our full complaints procedure here. Making a complaint will not affect how we handle your case.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority can help you if you are concerned about our behaviour. This could be for things like dishonesty, taking or losing your money or treating you unfairly because of your age, a disability or other characteristic. You can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority by visiting their website https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor.page.

The Legal Ombudsman can help you if we are unable to resolve your complaint ourselves. They will look at your complaint independently and it will not affect how we handle your case.

Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman will check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman:

  • Within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint; and
  • No more than six years from the date of act/omission; or
  • No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint.

If you would like more information about the Legal Ombudsman, please contact them using the following details.

Legal Ombudsman
PO Box 6806
Wolverhampton
WV1 9WJ

Telephone: 0300 555 0333

Lead Contact

Mahendree Naidoo

Director and Head of Private Client Legal
+44 (0)20 7566 3843
Email: Mahendree Naidoo

Meet our team
Contact us