How to Access Probate Services during Lockdown

24/12/2020

FAQ Guide - Probate Services during lockdown and over the public holiday

Over the festive period, together with a new stricter government tier system being imposed on several parts of the UK, law offices, banks, and other businesses are set to close during this time. This leaves many people wondering how to deal with a loved one's estate in the event of their death and how to start the process during the current lockdown situation we are all finding ourselves in. Our probate team at Russell & Russell Solicitors have put together some frequently asked questions regarding probate and provide some guidance on what you should do during the current situation when someone passes away. 

Will Russell & Russell still be able to help me with probate during lockdown?

Russell & Russell Solicitors have been committed to providing continued access to legal services throughout the national Covid-19 restrictions and will continue to do so during the Christmas holidays. Our main offices will be closed from 12.30pm on Christmas Eve, and normal office hours will return from 4th January. However, our probate team will be available in the Bolton office to provide advice and guidance to families who have lost a loved one over Christmas and we can also provide access to the team via our 24hour emergency legal advice line by calling 07919 591416.

Read more about the actions we are taking to comply with government guidelines, and how you can access our legal services during lockdown.

Can I still apply for probate without visiting your offices?

Yes, if you need to apply for probate and circumstances mean you are unable to do this with us in person; our specialist probate team is able to help you. We will guide you through the process of how to apply for probate, even during the current lockdown restrictions. Russell & Russell can help you gather all the information you need regarding your loved one’s estate and our probate team will be able to prepare your application and have it sent out to you in the post for you to sign.

From there, we will guide you through all the necessary steps on how to have your grant of probate approved. Our experienced and knowledgeable team will ensure your probate application is sorted as quickly and as safely as possible. The strict social distancing rules imposed on many of us, mean that you may not be able to see us in person, but do not let this worry you, our team can help you with the entire probate process over the phone, video chat, or in the method you are most comfortable with.

Can I still register a death during lockdown?

Yes, whilst a lot of ‘non-essential’ businesses have been forced to close during the Coronavirus pandemic, there are certain businesses and services that will continue to stay open or provide services to the public, even if this is in a slightly different way. To register a death during lockdown, you should be able to arrange a telephone appointment with your local registry office - you can find details of your local office on the government website here, and some are also offering appointment requests through an online portal. 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. It is important to remember that death must be registered within five days.

Can I administer an estate during the coronavirus lockdown?

Once you have received the grant of probate or letters of administration, you can start the process of dealing with the estate. This can include the closure of banks and building society accounts, selling property, or collecting funds from an estate. In most cases, banks and building societies will allow you to deal with this over the phone; however, you will likely need to send them the grant of probate by post to prove you have the right to administer the estate.

I am unsure of the inheritance tax threshold of the estate I am managing; can you help me?

Yes, our specialist probate solicitors will be able to provide you with all the information need regarding inheritance tax requirements, even if you are unsure of which inheritance threshold applies for the estate you are managing. If the estate includes property, we can guide you through the process of getting an online valuation, if you are unable to have the property valued in person by an estate agent. – If you need advice regarding selling a property, we can put you in touch with our experienced conveyancing department who will be able to assist you.

Can documents be signed electronically?

Yes, the Probate Registry is now accepting electronic signatures to documents. 

Online signatures are just some of the measures the industry has started to implement to modernise the service and to aid the possible issues in applying for Probate that can be faced during the current climate.

In regards to inheritance tax matters, the HMRC also now accepts electronic signatures, amending their process to remove the need for physical documented signatures, and they are also accepting payments via bank transfer rather than insisting on payments by cheques.

How can I obtain the Will or an LPA?

 Hopefully, you will have been left instructions on gaining access to the physical copy of the deceased’s Will or where it might be stored. However, if you are unable to, our team can help you request the original if there is one, as well as any Lasting Powers of Attorney.

If you think a loved one has not left a Will or there is an irregularity that has ruled it as invalid, you must apply to be appointed as Administrator of the estate to manage the deceased’s assets.

Our specialist probate solicitors have the knowledge and expertise to provide advice and guidance on the processes you will need to follow, including how to do this remotely.

Expert Probate Solicitors 

Dealing with a loved one’s estate and applying for probate can be a complex and confusing process. We want to give you peace of mind that correct procedures are being followed at all times. Our specialist probate solicitors at Russell & Russell Solicitors are here to guide you and answer any concerns you may have about administering an estate. We can also help with any inheritance tax concerns, the court of protection, or gaining access to a Will or Lasting Power of Attorney.

If you have any questions regarding being the executor for a Will of someone of has recently passed away, or if you are worried about accessing legal services during lockdown, please contact our experienced probate team by calling 0800 103 2600 or request a callback

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