WHAT IS PROBATE
"Probate" is the name generally given to the process of administering someone’s estate when they die.
When someone dies owning significant assets, a formal 'grant' must be obtained from a Court to enable their estate to be collected in and divided between their beneficiaries.
"Probate" is used to describe both the Grant of Probate and the process involved in obtaining it. It includes making an inheritance tax return to HMRC and paying the tax due; finalising income tax affairs and pensions; collecting in the estate from banks, building societies and selling assets; paying money due to beneficiaries; making any gifts of items to beneficiaries; preparing accounts for the estate.
There are actually two types of Grants: Probate and Letters of Administration.
Probate is granted when the person who has died left a valid Will, and is granted to one all of the executors named in that Will.
Letters of Administration are granted when the person who has died did not leave a valid Will.
Most people still refer to it as "Probate" because, for all practical purposes, the two types of Grant are identical. There are some differences in the process before the Grant is issued.
When someone leaves assets over £5,000, one of the types of Grant is usually required before those assets can be obtained and distributed. Some assets, i.e. bank accounts, may be closed where the cash within them is around £5,000 (this is dependent upon the institution in question).
1. Do I need Probate?
There are circumstances where a Grant is not needed. Where the estate is less than £5,000, for instance, and only includes cash funds held in deposit accounts. However, where the estate includes certain assets – like land or shares – you will always need to obtain a Grant.
2. Who obtains Probate or whose responsibility is it?
Anyone who is appointed to deal with the affairs of someone who has died and needs to access their bank accounts, investments and other assets in order to pay their debts, inheritance tax and distribute their estate. They cannot do so without a Grant of Probate or (where there is no Will) Letters of Administration.
If there is a Will, it is the Executors who will obtain the Grant. Where there is no Will, usually the next of kin are entitled to administer the estate and there are statutory rules about who those people are.
3. What is the Probate process?
There are 3 main stages to obtaining the Grant:
a) Investigating the extent of the estate. This includes all information about the assets and liabilities of the person who died even relatively insignificant ones.
b) Completing tax returns and applying to the Court for the Grant. The form which must be completed depends on the size of the estate and who the beneficiaries are.
c) Collecting in the assets, paying the debts of the person who has died and distributing the remaining estate in accordance with the terms of the Will or the statutory order of distribution, if there is no Will,
4. What we do for you
The Probate process can be complex and time consuming. Tax returns must be made to HMRC on the basis of information that is collated from the holders of all the deceased’s assets and liabilities, including bank accounts, investments, pensions and all other assets. Once Probate has been obtained the assets must be collected in and the liabilities of the estate must be paid before the estate is distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will or the statutory order for payment where there is no Will. As an executor or next of kin who applies for a Grant, you are personally liable for any mistakes or incorrect distributions.
The process relies on specialist legal and tax knowledge and there are a number of complications that can arise. For example, issues with the validity of the Will can be dealt with quickly and efficiently by an experienced professional.
I am experienced in Wills and Probate matters and I offer a personal, efficient service. You will have the peace of mind of knowing that your affairs are being dealt with in a sympathetic, efficient manner at a price which offers excellent value for money and which can be fixed at the outset. Importantly, I do not charge a percentage of the estate as part of my fees in administering the Estate For more information, please call me on the number below for a free 15 minute initial consultation and I will be happy to discuss the process with you.
Other services I provide:
- Court of Protection work
- Asset Protection
- Lasting Powers of Attorney
- Wills and Inheritance Tax planning
- Probate, Estate Administration & Trusts
- Care Home fee issues