When someone dies, if you have been appointed in their will as executor, you will be in charge, sometimes alongside others, of sorting out their property, money, and other assets. For this to happen, you will need to go through the process of probate and obtain a grant of representation. This proves your authority to administer, or deal with, the estate.
If you have never done this before, it can feel overwhelming, especially when you are grieving. Combine this with the complexities of probate and estate administration and navigating the legal aspects of handling a loved one’s affairs after they’ve passed away, can make it even more difficult. But know that you are not alone. Judkins Solicitors are here to help.
In this blog post, we’ll provide you with valuable insights and expert guidance, to make the probate process smoother and less daunting. Whether you’re a family member tasked with administering an estate or an executor looking for guidance, our team of experienced probate lawyers is at your service. Read on to discover the support and knowledge you need to manage the probate process with confidence.
What is probate?
When you register a death, you should be given an identifier for the government’s “Tell us Once” service. This allows you to contact various government departments in one go. But for each financial organisation the deceased had an account with, you will need to send them a certified copy of the death certificate and request a final statement. At this point, most assets will be frozen until a grant of probate has been obtained.
If a will has been left, the executors will need to apply for a grant of probate. If there is no will, then the next of kin will need to apply for a grant of letters of administration. This process is generically known as “probate” and put simply, means gathering any assets such as money left in bank or savings accounts, paying any bills and debts, and distributing whatever is left in accordance with the terms of the will or rules of intestacy.
If there is jointly owned property and money which passes to a spouse or civil partner, probate will not usually be needed. If you are not sure, we can help and advise you whether probate is required.
It typically takes around 16 weeks to be given a grant of probate after it has been applied for. The amount of time it then takes to complete probate depends on the estate’s complexity. Estates that include properties to sell, or multiple shares and investments will inevitably take longer to deal with than an estate with more modest assets.
How do I value the deceased’s estate?
You will need to be through the deceased’s documents and bank statements in order to establish their assets and liabilities and find records for each account they hold. You will need to contact the following organisations:
- Banks in relation to accounts/assets
- Lenders, including those for mortgages, loans, and any credit cards
- Stockbrokers or fund managers
- Pension providers
- Local authority in respect of council tax liabilities
- Department for Work and Pensions
- HMRC regarding tax matters
Many estates include a property, which needs to be valued. You can do this yourself by looking at similar properties in the area, but if inheritance tax (IHT) is likely to be an issue, a written valuation by an estate agent or surveyor will make dealing with HMRC easier if it challenges your figure as being too low.
Before applying for probate, you will need to calculate whether IHT is payable on the estate. As well as the value of the estate at the time of death, HMRC also requires details of cash gifts made by the deceased in the seven years before they died. These can increase the value of the estate for IHT purposes and need to be accounted for. If IHT is due, this must be paid for in advance before probate can be granted. In some cases Judkins may be able to agree an arrangement with HMRC whereby HMRC allow the grant to be issued on the basis of an agreement to pay IHT when the deceased assets are sold
It is also important that you obtain all the avaible reliefs and exemptions to minimise the IHT liability and we can help on this.
Do I need legal help to get probate?
Going through probate without help may seem daunting, and this is where our specialists can help. We can take the pressure off by dealing with executor duties on your behalf. Although applying for probate online is relatively easy, there is a risk of complications. We offer a flexible service and can take on administering an entire estate, or, if you wish to deal with the matter yourself, we can provide a report of the steps required and advise as and when needed. Call us on 01992 500456, or fill in our online enquiry form to request a call back.