Reasons to choose Wilson Browne
If you are an Executor of a Will, you can choose to apply for a Grant of Probate yourself, rather than get a solicitor to do it for you.
But what does this involve, and will it be the right decision for you?
What does an Executor have to do?
If the Will of a deceased person names you as an executor, then you will be responsible for administering the estate.
If you do not feel capable of carrying out this role, or if there are other reasons why you cannot administer the estate, then you can use a solicitor to act on your behalf.
But if you choose to administer the estate and apply for the Grant of Probate yourself (if a Grant is necessary), there is a series of things you will need to do as part of the administration process.
Paying for the Funeral
This is likely to be your most immediate concern. Because funerals usually happen soon after someone has died, they will take place before you can apply for a grant of probate.
In some situations, the deceased person may have a pre-paid funeral plan. Or sometimes, the funeral director will allow you to put off payment until after the granting of probate, though this is unlikely.
If there are sufficient monies in the deceased person’s bank or building society accounts then, most banks or buildings societies will agree to release money to the Funeral Directors to pay for the Funeral Expenses. You would need to show them a copy of the death certificate and the funeral invoice.
Alternatively, you may have to pay for the funeral yourself up front and recover the money from the estate later. You should ensure that there is sufficient monies in the estate to refund you before agreeing to pay the funeral expenses.
What You Must Do Before Applying for the Grant of Probate
Before you can establish whether it is necessary to apply for the Grant of Probate, there are several things you must do.
You must register the death of the person concerned.
You need to establish the size and value of the estate. You are probably going to have to contact various bodies and agencies for this, including banks, building societies, pension providers and mortgage and other lenders.
It is important that you get a clear picture of what the deceased person’s estate is worth.
There may also be outstanding tax payments to settle, so you should also contact HMRC and the local council (for council tax) to check. Also, check if there are any other outstanding bills that the deceased’s owes.
You must also get a valuation of the deceased person’s property. You can do this yourself, but if you use an estate agent or surveyor to provide a professional, written valuation
Once you have established the value of the estate, you will be able to determine whether you require a Grant of Probate and whether there is any Inheritance Tax due.
Before you apply for a Grant of Probate, you must first pay any inheritance tax that is due.
If it is necessary, you must submit an Inheritance Tax return to HMRC, within 12 months from the end of the month when the death occurred.
Applying for a Grant of Probate
You can apply for a grant of probate either online, or by post.
If applying online, you should follow the instructions on the Government website.
You can also apply by post, by completing the relevant application form and sending it along with relevant documentation to HMCTS Probate.
Full details are on the Government website.
What will a Grant of Probate Cost?
The fee for applying for a Grant of Probate is currently £273. This fee applies if the value of the estate is over £5,000. There is no charge if the estate is under £5,000.
Extra copies of the Grant of Probate will cost £1.50 each.
What Happens After You Receive the Grant of Probate?
The simpler the estate is, the easier it should be for the executors to administer it. However, larger estates can involve degrees of complexity.
To administer the estate, you must gather in its assets, ready for distribution to the beneficiaries named in the Will.
Institutions holding these assets should release them fairly swiftly once you have been granted probate.
You should set up a special executor’s account, separate from your own bank account, to pay these assets into.
It might also be necessary to advertise for any unknown creditors to come forward. If you do not do this, you could end up liable for unpaid debts in the future.
You can place a notice in your local press, but also in The Gazette, which is the UK’s official public record.
Before distributing the estate, check that you have identified all beneficiaries and creditors and that you have paid all estate debts and taxes.
After this, prepare the final accounts and distribute the assets of the estate in accordance with the Will.
Estate accounts should include all money paid in and paid out. You will need to keep these accounts, and any supporting documentation, for 12 years. You should also send a copy of the accounts to the residuary beneficiaries.
What if the Estate and obtaining the Grant of Probate becomes complex?
You can save money by administering the estate and applying for the Grant of Probate yourself, but you then have plenty of paperwork and responsibility resting on your shoulders.
This is not always straightforward, and if you administer the estate yourself, you are legally responsible for meeting all legitimate claims and paying tax. If you fail to act correctly, then one of the beneficiaries could sue you.
More complex estates can involve various assets and investments, and different properties too sometimes.
If there is a family member or someone who feels they should have been included in the Will but were not, then they could possibly contest the Will.
With a complex estate, the time and resources required to administer it may well offset any savings you make by choosing to administer the estate yourself. And this is not something you can afford to get wrong.
Should I Use a Solicitor?
There are various options when it comes to obtaining professional advice and support for administering the estate and applying for a Grant of Probate.
You may want to use a solicitor to obtain the grant of probate on your behalf, but you deal with the administration of the estate yourself.
Or, for complete peace of mind, you can use a solicitor to assist you in administering the estate for you and applying for the Grant of Probate.
Again, it depends on the complexity of the estate, and how much time and resources you have.
For more information about our services covering probate, Wills and trusts, please call 0808 088 6004, or complete our online contact form, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.