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Probate and Access to Services during Lockdown

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As the country is still confined to strict government lockdown restrictions, and with no set date for a ‘return to normal’.

Many businesses, banks and other professional services are either closed to the public during this time or are finding other ways to allow clients to continue to access services.

Certain situations are likely to cause further stress during these difficult times and if you are facing the recent death of a loved one, it will be understandable that you may be left wondering how to deal with their estate, especially whilst we are still in the confines of a strict lockdown. Our probate team at Wainwright & Cummins LLP have put together some frequently asked questions regarding probate and have provided guidance on what you should do during the current situation when someone passes away.

Can Wainwright & Cummins still help me with my probate matter during lockdown? 

Whilst we are only able to accept pre-arranged appointments at this time, we can continue to provide advice over the phone or help you arrange an appointment to speak to one of our team regarding your probate or estate management matter.

Can I still apply for probate without visiting your offices? 

Yes, if you are unable to visit us in person, our specialist probate team can provide the advice and guidance you need to help you through the process on how to apply for probate, even during the current lockdown restrictions. We can help you gather all the information you need regarding your loved one’s estate; help you prepare your application and have it sent out to you in the post for you to sign. Our probate team will then provide advice on the necessary steps you need to take in order to have your grant of probate approved.

We are taking every necessary precaution to ensure the safety of our staff and clients, if you do want to visit our offices, we have put in place all necessary steps to follow social distances rules. However, if you are unable to see us in person, our experienced and knowledgeable probate team can help you with the entire probate process over the phone, video chat or in the method you are most comfortable with.

How do I register a death during Lockdown? 

There are certain businesses and essential services that can stay open or provide services to the public, even if this is in a slightly different way. If you need 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 [Click 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 a 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 dealing with the sale of a property, collecting funds from an estate or closing banks and building society accounts. Whilst most banks and building societies will allow you to close accounts over the phone, it is likely you will need to send them the grant of probate by post to prove you have the right to administer the estate.

I don’t know the inheritance tax threshold of the estate I am managing; can you help me?

Yes, we can help you. We will provide you with all the information you need regarding inheritance tax requirements, even if you are unsure of which inheritance threshold applies to the estate you are managing.  

It may be that this includes a property, in those cases, we can advise you on the steps to have your property valued, either by an estate agent, or how to get an online valuation, if you are unable to have the property valued in person. We also have a specialist team of property lawyers, should you need advice regarding selling a property, who will be able to assist you.

Can I sign my documents 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.

The HMRC are also now accepting electronic signatures regarding inheritance tax matters and have amended their process to remove the need for physical documented signatures. They are also accepting payments via bank transfer rather than insisting on payments by cheques.

How can I obtain the Will or an LPA?

If you have not been left instructions on gaining access to the physical copy of the deceased’s Will or where it might be stored, our team can help you request the original, if there is one, as well as any Lasting Powers of Attorney.

However, if you think a loved one has not left a Will or you are concerned that there may be an irregularity that has ruled it as invalid, you will need to apply to be appointed as Administrator of the estate to manage the deceased’s assets.

If you have questions regarding administering an estate, we have the knowledge and expertise to provide advice and guidance on the processes you will need to follow, including on how to do this remotely.

Expert Probate Advice

We understand that being the Executor of a Will is a great responsibility. Our probate solicitors in Brixton, London can help! We can tailor our services to suit your requirements, from advice on administering an estate to helping with some of the practicalities, for example, obtaining the Grant of Probate, or acting as your Executors and dealing with the entire administration.

For further information or to speak to one of our experts please contact us. Please call 020 7095 5700 or email and let us know how we can help.