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The Pandemic and Its Effects on English Probate Law

The Pandemic and Its Effects on English Probate Law

10th January 2021

The death toll is rising across the country, and with it, thousands of people are inheriting their loved one’s estate. While trying to grieve, the estate’s executors have to deal with the legal side of their relative’s untimely passing. 

It is difficult for those responsible for carrying out their family member’s last wishes. The stress the family goes through is impacted depends on whether their loved one left a Will or not. Building societies, law firms, and banks are all needed to assess the value of properties and complete documents to distribute the deceased’s estate accordingly. 

COVID-19 is affecting everyone in various ways, from health issues to legal ones. You need to have all the information possible when executing the estate of your loved one, so let’s address some of the ways in which the lockdown has affected probate law in the UK.

What is Probate?

The word “probate” is thrown around liberally when the subject of inheritance comes about after someone dies. Probate is the process of administering a loved one’s estate. If a person has left a Will it will be sent to the Probate Registry before their assets can be given to their loved ones.  The process is easier if there is a Will because we know what the person wanted. 

If the person didn’t leave a Will when they passed,  the intestacy laws will apply.  Intestacy is the law that determines who inherits and who is entitled to the estate. Intestacy laws  will also determine who will administer the estate if there isn’t a will. The administrator is chosen from the list prescribed by law.  

By obtaining the letters of administration, the first step is complete, and the administrator can start the legal process of administering of finding out what assets and liabilities the dearly departed had before distributing the estate to the surviving loved ones. 

How Has the Pandemic Affected Probate Law in England and Wales??

Managing the estate of your loved one is hard.  COVID-19 has made it more difficult. . The restrictions  to help keep everyone safe have made it even more challenging. Registering the death, valuing their assets, applying for the grant of probate or letters of administration is taking much longer. Before the pandemic it used to take ten days; it now takes between 6 months and a year.

#1. Registering a Death

When a loved one passes, it is vital to register the death within five days of the deceased passing. In England and Wales, most Registry Offices are offering telephone meetings to register a death. 

You can locate your local office by using the Government’s Website to find out where you can call to set up an appointment. While the appointment is free, you will have to pay a fee for each death certificate. The document will then be sent to you in the post.

#2. Banking Institutions

The deceased bank or other financial institution may not be open or operating at full capacity at this current time. Therefore it will take longer for them to provide us with the finances at the date of death. You will need to contact their financial institution to see if you can come in to manage your loved one’s account or if they will be able to do it over the phone.  

#3. Valuation of Property

Physical valuations are challenging to obtain with real estate agents either being closed or overwhelmed with the requests due to the staggering amount of deaths from COVID-19. Instead, an estimation can be used until a physical one can be completed. Physical valuations are vital if an estate is liable to pay an inheritance tax or near the threshold.

#4. Obtaining the Grant of Probate

When you obtain the death certificate you will know whether you need to engage a probate solicitor to ensure the probate is done correctly. You will require one if the estate has property or if the assets are in the deceased’s sole name. Most law offices have modified hours or do video or in-person  meetings to go over the information collected with you. 

If done by video, the probate solicitor will gather the information, prepare the application, and send the paperwork through the post for you to approve.  Once you are happy with the application, you can submit it to the probate registry. The grant of probate will be sent back to you through the post once it has been approved. 

Choose the Right Solicitor for Your Probate Needs

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors personalises its probate services according to every particular circumstance, and our lawyers are experts in managing and walking you through every step of the process.

Because we know this is a challenging time and a difficult process, we’ll work at a pace comfortable for you. Because we have spent more than a decade specialising in just such affairs, we work tirelessly to make this process as easy as possible on you while being efficient and effective in closing the estate. And because we know that circumstances can change rapidly, we provide the flexibility you need to handle all legal proceedings surrounding the passing of a loved one.

Let us help you manage your responsibility as executor and get you and your loved ones the closure they need. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us and let us help you move forward and ensure that your loved one’s estate is wound up properly.