What happens if I need probate services during a lockdown?
With several parts of the country facing stricter lockdown restrictions, including certain areas being moved in to the new Tier 4, and many businesses and public services closing across the country, many people have been left anxious on how they will access crucial services such as a solicitor or other vital legal services. In particular how they will be able to deal with probate – the legal process of dealing with an estate after someone dies. If you are an executor of a will, you may have to apply for probate before any assets can be distributed, accounts closed or debts and taxes paid. Under any circumstances, this can often be a distressing time for family and loved ones, and the added stresses of the Coronavirus pandemic can likely cause further worry to those not knowing how to start the process during the current lockdown situation we are all finding ourselves in. In this blog, we are answering some frequently asked questions regarding probate, and provide some guidance on what you should do during the current situation when someone passes away.
Can I Still Contact Larcomes Solicitors during Lockdown?
Larcomes Solicitors are committed to providing continued legal services to our local community. We continue to stay open, following all Government Guidelines, and are available to provide legal advice to our clients in the form they are most comfortable with, including over the phone, video call, at the office with an appointment pre-made or at home adhering to COVID guidelines, or via one of our drive-through services at the office. However, the office will be shut for the Christmas break from December 24th – 4th January. During this time, should your enquiry be an emergency, please contact our main office line and your call will be diverted to a legal adviser. Please call us on 023 9244 8100
How can I get a grant of probate during the current lockdown restrictions?
Larcomes specialist probate solicitors will be able to assist you in applying for probate, even during the current coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Our probate team will help you gather all the information required regarding your loved one’s estate and we will prepare your application and have it sent out to you for you to sign. We will then guide you through the next steps on how to have your grant of probate approved. We have the knowledge and expertise to provide all the guidance you need to assist you with a probate application, to ensure it is sorted as quickly and as safely as possible, and can do all of this with you over the phone or via a method you are most comfortable with.
We realise that with strict social distancing rules in place, you may not be able to see us in person, but you do not need to worry about putting off the probate process. Our experienced team can help you get your probate matter sorted over the phone, via video link or via our drive-through service.
Can I register a death during the coronavirus restrictions?
Even during the most restrictive lockdown locations in the UK, certain businesses and services will be continuing to stay open and will provide their services slightly differently. If you need to register a death during lockdown, you should be able to arrange a telephone appointment with your local registry office, with some offering appointment requests through an online portal. It is important to remember that a death must be registered within five days.
To find details of how to contact your local registry office, you can find details on the government website here. Appointments to register a death are free; however, you will need to pay £11 for each death certificate, which will be sent to you in the post.
I need to value a property, how can I do this when estate agents are closed?
Since the lockdown restrictions started at the beginning of the year, getting physical property valuations were at times prohibited, and it was necessary to obtain an estimate or online valuation. Whilst in some cases this has now eased, and physical valuations are once again allowed, our specialist probate team can still accept an estimate or online valuation for your loved one’s property in most cases, and as long as the value of the estate you are dealing with is close to the current inheritance tax threshold, which is £325,000 for 2020/21, or £650,000 where a loved one previously inherited all of their spouse’s estate. We will be able to provide you with all the information you need regarding tax requirements, even if you are unsure of which inheritance threshold applies for the estate you are managing, and how to get an online valuation of a property.
Can I administer an estate during the coronavirus lockdown?
Once grant of probate or letters of administration has been received, you will be able to start the process of dealing with the estate, including closure of accounts, selling property or collecting funds from an estate. Most banks and building societies will allow you to deal with this over the phone, but will likely require you to send them the grant of probate by post to prove you have the right to administer the estate.
Are electronic signatures being accepted during lockdown?
The Probate Registry is now accepting electronic signatures to documents – read our previous article “probate submissions must now be online” – which are just some of the things the industry has started to implement to modernise the service and to aid possible issues in applying for Probate that can be faced during the current climate.
In regards to inheritance tax matters, the HMRC have amended their process to provide the ability to accept electronic signatures, replacing the need for a physical documented signature and they are also accepting payments via bank transfer rather than insisting on payment by cheques.
Specialist Probate Solicitors
We realise that applying for probate can be a complex and confusing process. Our specialist probate solicitors are here to answer any questions you may have about administering an estate, including inheritance concerns, gaining access to a Will or Lasting Power of Attorney. Ensuring you receive expert legal advice will give you peace of mind knowing that the correct procedures are being followed at all times.
If you are the Executor for a Will of someone who has recently passed away, or you have any concerns regarding accessing our services during lockdown, please call our experienced probate team today who will work with you and your family to find the right solution tailored to your situation.
You can call our Probate team on 023 9244 8100 or make an online enquiry.
Please note that this article is not intended as legal or professional advice, it is for general guidance only and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.