Dealing with probate
Posted on 18th January 2019
When someone dies the process of releasing their assets is called probate*. This must be completed before beneficiaries can receive their share of the estate.
The exception is when all the property is jointly-owned and money passes to a spouse or civil partner.
If you are dealing with probate for the first time this can all be quite daunting, so here are some things you might want to know.
The probate process
If your friend or family member left a Will, naming you as an executor you can apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate.
If they didn’t write a Will then you will need to apply for letters of administration, and you’ll be known as the administrator. In either case, the general term used is a ‘grant of representation’.
For a straightforward estate, probate will usually be granted four to eight weeks after you have submitted your application.
Professional probate support
You might want to ask the bank or family solicitor of your friend or relative to handle the probate process for you. There are other specialists who can also provide this service. However, you should be aware substantial fees will be charged.
If your loved one used a bank to prepare their Will and appointed them as a co-executor, you can ask to take over. If the bank is unwilling allow this, you can apply to the court to remove them from the process.
Legal advice on probate
You don’t have to use a solicitor, but if you do decide to use one then it’s important to find out about all the fees in advance. Many calculate costs based on an hourly rate and/or a percentage of the value of the estate and this can be expensive.
Alternatively, you can find a solicitor who will undertake probate for a fixed fee. If you wish, you can use a broker who will recommend several fixed-fee solicitors for you from their pre-approved panel.
If the estate is straightforward, then you might pay a fixed fee of between £2,000 and £3,000, but if there are multiple bank accounts and inheritance tax to deal with it could be much more.
You can find some useful information on the Money Advice Service website.
Do it yourself probate
Handling probate yourself is an option unless the estate is very complicated. If stocks, complex investments or buy-to-let properties and included, for example, you might need some extra help. The Which? website provides some useful advice.
In general, the first steps are to register the death to obtain a death certificate and to find out if there is a Will. You will need information about your friend or family member’s property, money and other assets, including things like life insurance and any money they are owned. Outstanding bills, including inheritance tax, will need to be paid before the beneficiaries receive their share of the assets.
If there was a Will, then the estate can then be shared out accordingly. If there isn’t a Will then the laws of intestacy will apply.
The best way to make sure your wishes are clear is to have a properly prepared Will and to let your friends and relatives know. If you would like advice, please get in touch.
*Note: The probate process is the same in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but there are variations in Scotland.
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