What is probate?

Probate is the term used for when you are dealing with someone’s estate. It involves finding out about all of their assets and debts, valuing their estate and then passing it on.

Who is responsible?

The executor or executors of the deceased’s will are responsible for administering the will and dealing with probate.

They would have agreed to the task when the will was written but it is not uncommon for them to enlist the help of a solicitor.

Although it is possible for the executor to handle probate themselves, it is a good idea to seek assistance from a solicitor who can help you through the process.

If you’d like more information on how our specialist probate solicitors can help you, read more about our probate and administration of estate services.

How do I value an estate?

To value an estate you need to identify all of the deceased’s assets and identify their worth. This includes any bank or building society accounts, any investments they made, their belongings, cars and anything else they owned. You also need to look into any pensions and life insurance policies they may have had.

For any savings and investments and other financial assets you need to write to the provider and ask for a valuation at the date of death.

You need to get their property valued, preferably by an estate agent and any debts i.e. mortgages, credit cards, loans, personal debts and funeral costs should be deducted when calculating the value of their estate.

What is a grant of representation?

A grant of representation is needed if you are to access the deceased’s assets and distribute them, banks and other financial institutions will ask for this before they release any funds.

HMRC say you may not need a grant if the estate:

  • Is a low-value estate ‘ generally worth less than £5,000 (some organisations may use a higher or lower figure in deciding whether or not a grant is needed) ‘ and doesn’t include land, property or shares.
  • Passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner because it was held in joint names.    

Inheritance tax forms

In most cases estates do not incur inheritance tax and are therefore classed as ‘excepted estates’, but an inheritance tax form still needs to be completed.

HMRC describes what is classed as an excepted estate:

For deaths on or after 6 April 2010 an estate will also be an excepted estate if both of the following apply:

  • The value of the estate is less than twice the inheritance tax threshold (£650,000 in 2014 to 15 tax year)
  • 100% of the unused inheritance tax threshold from a late spouse or civil partner can be transferred to the deceased.

What next?

Once the forms have been completed they must be sent to the Probate Registry and HMRC and any inheritance tax that is due must be paid.

The executor must then attend a probate venue or the office of any commissioner i.e. their solicitor’s office, where they will swear an oath.

After this, a grant of representation will then be sent out in the post to be shown to banks and other institutions to release assets. Any debts owed by the deceased must then be settled and then the estate can be distributed.

How to contact the experts at Future Planning Solutions

If you are an executor of a will and need assistance with probate call our expert team of solicitors today on 01282 695 400.

Or, if you’d like to arrange a call back from one our dedicated solicitors, you can complete our online contact form.