Case studies

Managing Complex Probate Cases

By Estatesearch on April 8th, 2024

By Kate Rutherford, Head of Probate, Marc White & Co

Marc White & Co is a legal firm based in Bristol, dedicated to providing a high-quality professional service, offering transparent, straightforward legal advice to individuals and businesses. 

We have a small but highly experienced private client team often taking on complex probate cases and taxable estates.  We offer a full estate administration service and our approach is to remove the burden of responsibility from our clients at a difficult time.

Managing Complex Probate Cases

Thinking probate is easy is a misnomer.  There is much to consider and it is important to be mindful of all sorts of important details such as tax, transferable nil rate bands, potential use of the residence nil rate band, how to report lifetime gifting, obtaining precise property valuations and being mindful of HMRC’s interest rate on unpaid inheritance tax… there’s a long list!  The inheritance tax return needs to be submitted to the Inland Revenue six months after the date of death, which is a short timescale when families are often dealing with funeral arrangements in the first month after the deceased has passed away and they may not feel like rifling through paperwork and obtaining valuations straight away.

We use our free initial meeting to explain everything to the client in detail, then once instructed, take over all the administration for a fixed fee.  We ask clients to send us anything they are sent in relation to the deceased, and we handle it for them, so they do not need to worry.  Communication is important, so we keep clients updated at least monthly, even if that is just to let them know we are still waiting for something.

To administer an estate correctly, we insist on a Will Search and Financial Profile Search, ordered through Estatesearch, in every case.  The Will Search ensures there is not an updated version of the Will that the family were unaware of or to be confident when proceeding on the basis that the deceased died intestate, and the Financial Profile Search helps us establish all the assets within an estate.  Without this information early on, it is very difficult to determine what the deceased’s estate consists of, and a clear breakdown is necessary to accurately report to HMRC. 

With the interest rate on overdue inheritance tax being so high at the moment, and keeping in mind that HMRC can issue penalties for incorrect or missed declarations, all investments and assets must be identified as soon as possible in the estate administration process.

I used Estatesearch’s Financial Profile Search at a previous firm and it transformed our lives!  Previously, we had needed to search through boxes of paperwork, not knowing what was out of date and what was still valid.  Then, we would need to write to every financial institution we found reference of, which was hugely time-consuming.  With the increasing move online, there tends to be less paperwork available as a starting point. 

Estatesearch’s Financial Profile is a cost-effective, comprehensive search of over 400 financial institutions which is returned within four weeks, summarising where accounts are held.  We can then make further enquiries to establish the full extent of the estate.  We have discovered pensions, bank accounts, and even an investment worth around £12k, which the wife of the deceased was not aware of. 

With one matter we had taken over from another solicitor, an immediate Financial Profile Search revealed a significant number of unknown assets, including Premium Bonds. We were immediately able to update HMRC and avoided the estate incurring interest or a penalty for non or late declaration.

When it comes to taxable estates, missing an investment which is then discovered more than six months after the date of death could result in considerable interest being payable, so an early Financial Profile Search is essential. 

We know one of the most important things for our clients is having regular contact.  Our transparent approach to communication throughout the various stages puts clients’ minds at rest and ensures they always know the status of their case.  Working with Estatesearch helps us offer peace of mind and certainty that no stone has been left unturned, especially in complex probate cases.  We want to ensure that our clients have time and space to grieve, rather than worrying about probate and paperwork.

Originally published in Today’s Wills and Probate – 27th March, 2024

Give us a call today, or send a message and we'll get back to you straight away.

0330 900 1700
[email protected]