Bishop & Sewell

Probate – the legal process of passing on assets after someone dies – is often a long and complex process that can leave heirs and other dependents facing long delays before receiving any assets that have been left to them.

Recent research from Direct Line Life Insurance published in the Independent suggests almost a third of cases in the last 12 months have faced delays in closing or settling an estate.

Beneficiaries are remarkably difficult to track down and even when they are, proving their relationship with the deceased person causes problems for more than a quarter of cases, the survey from Direct Line reveals.

The executor themselves might also have passed away, delaying the handover of financial and other inheritances by as long as a year.

More than 8,000 estates remain unclaimed

Many Probate lawyer colleagues report we have all seen a rise in these types of issues, especially increased difficulty tracking down beneficiaries, during Covid-19 restrictions. Families are seeing each other less regularly, children and parents are more likely to take different surnames than in the past and, sadly as our colleagues in the Family team know too well, families are now falling out with each other more often.

These problems are also causing a rise in the number of inheritances that are never claimed, according to Direct Line.

With more than 8,000 cases of unclaimed inheritance recorded in the UK as of September this year, including many that are decades old, that’s a rise of almost a 20 per cent in the last twenty years.

Chloe Couper, Direct Line Life Insurance’s spokesperson says: “Organising probate can be a very stressful time for families and relatives who have lost a loved one. This situation can be exacerbated by issues which cause unnecessary delays to the process.

“Our research highlights the need to discuss these complex issues with family members and for them to ensure that a will is written at an appropriate time, helping to reduce the likelihood of these issues arising.

“We would recommend that anyone going through this process also checks their, or their loved one’s, life insurance policy, as they may be in a position to receive a lump sum which would help ensure legal fees and funeral costs are covered while any probate issues are resolved.”

We would endorse this, too.

Probate is a challenging process for many people and professional help can reduce the stress significantly.

Our team of experts provides clear, concise and well-informed advice on how best to protect you & your family’s assets, both now and in the future.

Whether you want more information about the current tax landscape and its implications, guidance on the tax-efficient structuring of your wealth, estate planning or estate administration, we can help.

We have an established track record of producing innovative outcomes for our clients, with an emphasis on working with you to produce the best solution that suits your circumstances.

We include members of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and are therefore qualified in advising families and individuals on their specific needs as they age, for example, planning for long term care provision and entering into an LPA arrangement in the event of incapacity.

We have many years’ experience in the winding-up of estates and acting for executors, often at difficult and challenging times, with the utmost tact, clarity and professionalism.

We build enduring relationships. Our approach is to be as friendly and helpful as possible, giving you peace of mind, for now and then.

How We Can Help

  • Drafting your Will including, where appropriate, Living Wills (as they were known)
  • Expert and up-to-the-minute tax planning advice
  • The creation and administration of Trusts, both here and offshore
  • Winding up and administration of an estate
  • Probate services, including issues of intestacy and Resealing Foreign Probate Grants
  • Drafting a Deed of Family Arrangement/Deed of Variation
  • Existing or proposed Lasting Powers of Attorney, allowing someone to deal with your property or look after your health and welfare in later life, and assisting with applications for Deputyship, where the patient has already lost mental capacity.

Our friendly experts regularly advise on all of the above, as well as more complex (and more straightforward) circumstances.

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our team, please email or contact 020 7631 4141 and ask to speak to the Private Client team.

About Helen Langworthy

Helen is a Partner and Head of the Private Client team. She joined Bishop & Sewell in 2011 and has extensive experience in dealing with all aspects of private client work, including drafting wills, the administration of estates, the creation and administration of trusts and general lifetime tax planning for family wealth.

Helen is a Full Member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), a worldwide professional association for practitioners dealing with family inheritance and succession planning. STEP members help families plan for their futures, from drafting a will to advising on issues concerning international families. Full STEP members, known as TEPs, are internationally recognised as experts in their field, with proven qualifications and experience.

Specialist areas:

Estate planning
Administration of Estates including the resealing of Foreign Grants of Probate
The creation of trusts, specifically those relating to UK residential property.


The above is accurate as at 28 October 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.

Category: Blog | Date: 28th Oct 2020

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