Reasons to choose Wilson Browne
If the deceased person has left a Will, then the executors named in the Will should apply for probate.
Executors are appointed in a Will. They have various duties to do with administering the estate of a deceased individual.
But if you are appointed as an executor, you do not have to act, if you would prefer to either renounce your executorship, or reserve your power.
Reserving your power as an executor means that you choose not to act now, but you can act in future, if this is required. This may apply, for example, where an executor is based overseas, so it would be difficult for them to sign documentation.
You can apply for probate yourself, or ask a solicitor to do it for you.
But what is the process of dealing with someone’s estate?
Register the death
You need to register the death of the deceased person within five days of the death, if you live in England or Wales. If you live in Scotland, it is within eight days.
When you register the death, you will receive a death certificate.
You should pay for extra copies of this, if the deceased had multiple assets.
Extra copies are £11.00 each.
Look after the finances
Send copies of the death certificate to banks, building societies and insurance companies, and ask them to stop any direct debits or other payments from the deceased person’s accounts.
Find the original Will
This may be stored with a solicitor, at the deceased person’s bank or in their home.
Once you have the will, keep it safe and notify any other executors. You will need the original Will to apply for the grant of probate.
Secure and value the property
You will need to value any property of the deceased person as part of probate.
The first thing to do is to make sure the property is secure and insured (insurance might have lapsed if the deceased is the policy holder).
The easiest way to value the property is to have an estate agent or surveyor provide a written valuation.
This will may make dealing with HMRC easier if there are inheritance tax issues.
Value the rest of the estate
You will need to go through bank accounts and other records to value the estate of the deceased person.
You will also need to check to see if there are any tax or local government payments outstanding.
Using the Government’s Tell Us Once service, you can let various agencies know about the death in one go.
Pay inheritance tax
You must pay any inheritance tax (IHT) due to HMRC before you settle the estate.
If there are sufficient funds in the deceased person’s bank account, you can pay this direct to HMRC. Where there are major assets in property, or shares, you should be able to arrange payment of IHT in instalments.
For more information about inheritance tax, see below.
File your probate application
You can either apply for probate online or complete a paper application. In order to complete the application, you will need the death certificate, details of the deceased, details of the executors and the value of the estate.
If the estate is liable to pay inheritance tax an IHT400 form for inheritance tax must be completed and sent to HMRC beforehand.
HMRC asks for details of the value of the estate at death, plus details of any cash gifts the deceased person made up to seven years before their death.
These cash gifts could increase the value of the estate, and therefore affect inheritance tax.
Pay your probate fees
To complete your application for probate, you must pay a probate fee. Currently this is £273 in England and Wales.
You can also pay a small fee to order extra copies of the grant of probate, to help cover the whole probate administration process.
Dealing with Inheritance Tax
BEFORE you can apply for probate, you must file an inheritance tax (IHT) return.
You must file an IHT return with 12 months from the end of the month when the death occurred.
HMRC calculates IHT at 40% on all of the deceased person’s assets that are:
- Over the free tax amount
- Not exempt as either assets or gifts.
Inheritance tax is payable within six months from the end of the month in which the death occurred otherwise interest will become payable.
You can apply for probate 20 days after you have filed your inheritance tax return.
How Do You Apply for a Grant of Probate?
To apply for a grant of probate, you will need to complete a probate application form.
You can do this online, or by post. There are various options, including applying for probate where there is no Will.
You can apply for a grant of probate with or without using a solicitor.
If you choose not to use a solicitor you will need to fill out a probate application form yourself and include various documents, including:
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- The original will and any codicil (a document that makes changes to it)
- Photographic ID.
If the deceased person died while married, without leaving a Will, you will need a copy of the marriage certificate or a decree absolute if they were divorced.
What Happens Next?
Once you have received the grant of probate, you can get on with administering the estate.
This includes paying any debts, closing bank accounts and distributing assets to the beneficiaries in the deceased person’s Will.
You need to keep estate accounts for this, with details of what assets each beneficiary has received, along with the estate’s debts and income.
Once you have distributed all assets and paid any debts, the administration of the Estate is completed.
If there are trusts, as an executor, you may have ongoing duties managing these.
How long does it take to administer an estate?
There is not a straightforward answer to this. The complicated and higher value the estate is, the longer it can take.
Generally, it takes around 9 to 12 months to administer an estate, and much of this time is spent gathering evidence and details about the deceased person’s assets and liabilities, and preparing the IHT return and waiting for probate to be granted.
But once probate is granted, beneficiaries should receive their inheritance relatively soon.
If, however, there are disputes concerning creditors or beneficiaries, these can slow things up.
Should You Use a Solicitor for Probate?
If there are any complexities to do with an estate, then using the help of a legal specialist in probate can make the whole process easier to manage.
This also applies to estates which are over the inheritance tax threshold.
There can also be a number of issues if someone dies without leaving a will and the rules of intestacy apply.
It is also often the case that dealing with probate comes at a difficult time emotionally for many executors, and they can benefit from independent and professional help that a solicitor can provide.
Do You Need Probate?
If you are putting your own affairs in order, then it is better to write a Will than to leave your estate unresolved and subject to the rules of intestacy.
It is important to make decisions in advance by way of a Will that will ensure that your estate is administered and distributed in accordance with your wishes.