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The Probate Process: Step By Step

September 20, 2018  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

wills and probate solicitor Thames Valley

When a family member dies, the prospect of dealing with wills and probate arrangements can be overwhelming during an already difficult time, particularly when it comes to taxes and inheritance. Your solicitor is there to help you through the process and manage the deceased’s estate, and we’ve put together a step by step guide to make each stage feel more approachable.

Who Handles Probate?

In most cases, you will need to get a ‘grant of representation’ (also known as probate). Your first port of call should be a solicitor, who will help you to find out who has been officially appointed to deal with the estate and finances. If the deceased has left a will, they should have named an executor, but if not, the next of kin may be able to take charge of the process.

In some cases, for example if the estate is very small (under £5,000) and doesn’t contain property, land, or shares, or if the estate is held equally in joint names, the process can be very straightforward and everything will pass to the survivor.

In most cases, however, you will need the assistance of your solicitor to help you to work through the probate process and ensure the estate is settled according to the will.

Who Do You Need To Inform?

One of the first tasks for the person handling probate is to inform any relevant companies related to each asset (or liability) in the deceased’s estate. This might include banks, building societies, and credit card companies, utility companies, insurance companies, TV licensing, phone and internet providers, investment firms, employers and pensions.

Any relevant companies or organisations may ask you to provide them with the death certificate and any necessary documents, after which the accounts will usually be frozen until probate is completed.

To make things easier, you can also use the Death Notification Scheme, which allows you to inform several financial institutions at once.

How Do You Value The Estate?

Once you’ve contacted all the necessary organisations and put together a list of assets and liabilities you’ll be able to estimate the value of the estate. This will include the value of any property, savings, investments, valuables, and insurance payouts. You will also need to consider the division of any joint assets, any gifts made above the allowance threshold within the last seven years, and any outstanding debts.

Who Are The Beneficiaries?

Any beneficiaries and the amount they are due should be named on the will. If there is no will, assets will be distributed according to intestacy laws. According to these rules, only married or civil partners and certain other close relatives are able to inherit.

How Much Tax Do You Have To Pay?

Once you have estimated the value of the estate, minus any outstanding debts, you will be able to establish whether it is subject to the inheritance tax threshold of £325,000. Sometimes this will be covered by a life insurance policy, or the deceased will have taken steps to reduce the amount of inheritance tax due by making regular gifts from their income.

If there is any income tax to pay, you will need to settle this before applying for probate.

How Do You Distribute Assets?

Assets should be divided according to the will (or, if there is no will, according to the rules of intestacy). This might include property, possessions, monetary inheritance, and charitable donations.

Final Steps:

Once all these processes are complete, you will be ready to send an application to the probate registry, comprising a probate form, death certificate, will, and inheritance tax form. Then you will receive a ‘grant of representation’ and will be able to access and release the assets. You will also need to pay off any debts that are still outstanding, including a fee to the probate registry and any solicitor’s bills. 

In all cases, your solicitor will be able to help you through every step of the process, from calculating the value of the estate to dealing with inheritance tax. For more information and advice on wills and probate, our expert team are on hand to take the weight off your shoulders. Get in touch at www.franceslindsay.co.uk to book a free 45-minute consultation to discuss your situation.

 

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