Dealing with Wills and Probate
Coping with the death of someone close to you can be traumatic, and if you have been appointed the Executor of their Will it may seem a very daunting task. You will be responsible for dealing with their estate – the money, property and possessions left – and distributing the proceeds from the estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will once any debts have been paid.
Applying for probate
Handling the probate as an Executor is essentially a three stage process. The first is to assess the size of the estate – working out how much has been left behind. The second
is to apply for and obtain a Grant of Representation. The third is the administration of the estate, where assets are gathered and distributed in accordance with the Will.
Assessing the estate
You will need to obtain the death certificate and original Will and then check the deceased’s assets and liabilities. You will need to close any accounts and get ‘date of death’ values.
If there is any property, you will need to have this valued.
Applying for Probate
You will need to complete the probate application form (PA1) and then complete an inheritance tax form (either IHT205 or IHT400). You will need to pay any inheritance tax due. Once the forms are completed they will need to be sent with the original Will (plus three copies) and any codicils, (changes to the will) the original death certificate and probate fee to the Probate Registry. The Probate Registry will send you an appointment to attend your local registry where you will be required to swear an executor’s oath, in some cases the oath may be sworn at a solicitor’s office.
Administration of the Estate
Any assets should be transferred to the Executors account, and any property should be sold if this is appropriate. The estate accounts will need to be prepared and finalised and then the estate can be distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will.
If you wish to apply for a Grant of Probate without using a solicitor and you need help, please contact the Probate Service Helpline and the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline at the HMRC.
Intestacy is what happens when someone dies without making a Will. A close relative will apply for Letters of Administration, not probate, and then handles the estate similarly. If you find yourself having to go through this process, known as probate, you may choose to use a solicitor, however you can apply for probate yourself. This may depend on the size and complexity of the estate. Probate is the court’s authority given to a person or persons to administer the deceased’s estate and the document issued by the Probate Service is called a Grant of Representation.
Why is a grant of representation needed?
Essentially, it is there to protect the interests of the estate and the beneficiaries. Before releasing money or other assets owned by the deceased, those holding the assets (such as banks) need to know that they are dealing with someone who has the legal authority to deal with the deceased’s affairs. The Grant of Representation provides that assurance. It also confirms that the Will made by the person who has died is valid (however, the validity of a Will remains open to challenge after probate has been granted). A grant is not necessary in all cases. For example, it may not be necessary to obtain a grant where a home is held
in joint names and is passing to the other joint owner by survivorship. Where a joint bank or building society account is held, production of a death certificate may be sufficient for the monies to be transferred to the joint holder and certain institutions may release monies without a grant being produced if the amount held by the deceased was small. You will need to apply to the relevant institutions to see if they will release monies without a grant.