All You Need To Know About The Probate Process

When someone close to us dies the grief can be all-consuming. When you are also the person responsible for dealing with the affairs or administration of the estate of the person who has died, the responsibility can be overwhelming.

The “probate process” as it is known will depend first of all on the value of the estate and secondly if the deceased left a Will or not.

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Welcome to our page explaining the probate process. We are a firm who specialise in dealing with probate and estate administration. At Seatons, we offer a helpful and friendly service with low fees that provide exceptional value for money.  Please call us today for a free, no-obligation chat on 01536 276300 or contact us online.

The Probate Process

When someone close to us dies the grief can be all-consuming. When you are also the person responsible for dealing with the affairs or administration of their estate, the responsibility can be overwhelming.

The “probate process”, as it is known, will depend first of all on the value of the estate and secondly if the deceased left a Will or not.

Small Estates

If the overall value of the deceased’s estate is under £5,000 you might not need to apply for a Grant of Probate and you should be able to obtain the release of the assets without too much difficulty. Small estates such as these can usually be transferred without going through the Probate process.

If you are dealing with a bank or building society they will typically require you to provide evidence of the death, a copy of the Will (if applicable), and complete and sign a Closure form or Statutory Declaration.

Although the Administration of Estates (Small Payments) Act 1965 sets out this threshold at £5,000, almost every bank, building society and financial institution will set their own limit to determine the point at which they will voluntarily release assets without a Grant of Probate needing to be produced.

Many high street banks and lenders will release assets as long as they do not exceed £15,000, but this can vary and so it is important to check this with the relevant financial institution first.

Jointly Held Assets

Another situation in which a Grant of Probate will not be required is if the deceased held all their assets jointly with another person. In this case, at the death of one of the joint owners, the assets will pass on to the surviving owner automatically, irrespective of the deceased’s Will or any Intestacy Rules (if there is no Will). This is known as the rule of ‘survivorship’.

Wills

If there is a Will then the initial probate process is fairly simple. The Will appoints the Executors who are the persons responsible for administering the estate including collecting in the assets, paying off any debts, closing any accounts and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.

In these circumstances, the first step would be to apply for a Grant of Probate, which confirms the legal authority of the Executors named in the Will. This involves submitting to the Probate Registry a completed PA1P form, the appropriate Inheritance Tax Summary form, the original will and death certificate, as well as paying the applicable fees.

This can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, but we are here to help.

No Will - Intestacy

If there is no Will then the probate process becomes more complicated – who will deal with the probate process and who gets what?

When you die without a Will you are said to have died ‘intestate’. In these cases, the Administration of Estates Act 1925 lays down who can administer the estate, who inherits and in what proportions – these are known as the Intestacy Rules.

One of the deceased’s relatives will need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, which is a similar process to that of applying for a Grant of Probate, but requires a PA1A form to be completed, rather than a PA1P form.

However, in this situation, it may be advisable to seek legal advice. You will be required to provide information about the deceased’s family to the solicitor, which will enable the solicitor to assemble a family tree and then advise who will be entitled to deal with the probate process (and be the administrator) and ultimately who will benefit from the estate.

Once it has been agreed who this person is and the person accepts the role as the administrator, they have the same basic responsibility as an executor would and will initially be responsible for protecting the estate.

If you need help with the probate process then please call us at Seatons on 01536 276300 for a free, no-obligation chat.

Value Of The Estate

Whether the deceased has left a will or not, from now on the probate process is fairly similar in both scenarios. In any case, you will need to obtain up-to-date valuations in respect of the deceased’s assets (valued at the date of death) as well as full details of all liabilities and debts that the deceased held.

Inland Revenue

If it is necessary to obtain a grant of representation to the deceased’s estate (a Grant of Probate if there is a will, or a Grant of Letters of Administration if there is no will) then you will need to submit to the Inland Revenue (HMRC) a tax form providing details of the deceased’s assets and liabilities and the net value of the deceased’s estate.

Generally, if there is no Inheritance tax to pay on the deceased’s estate (usually if the value of the deceased’s estate is under £325,000) then HMRC (Inland Revenue) will require an Inheritance Tax return to be submitted through the IHT205 form. However, there are various other circumstances that apply that determine whether an IHT207 form is appropriate.

Generally, if there is Inheritance tax to pay on the deceased’s estate (usually if the net value of the deceased’s estate is over £325,000 for a single person or £650,000 for the widow, widower or surviving civil partner of the deceased) then HMRC will require a more detailed tax form called an IHT400 with accompanying schedules.  Since the IHT400 form is longer than the IHT205 and requires more detail, we would recommend that legal advice is sought if an IHT400 form is needed.

We at Seatons will happily help you with the probate process. Please call us on 01536 276300 for a free, no-obligation chat.

Oath

The probate process requires you to either sign a statement or sometimes to swear an Oath on the Bible in front of a solicitor or commissioner for oaths, which constitutes a promise that you have provided information that is true and to the best of your knowledge.

Once the statement is signed (or the oath sworn), if there is an IHT400, then any Inheritance Tax must be paid directly to HMRC. Once a tax receipt has been issued, it is sent with the relevant documents listed above to the Probate Court.

Grant

A few weeks later the Probate Court will issue a Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (if there is no Will).

Once the Grant has been issued, the executor or administrator becomes the Personal Representative of the deceased (PR). The PR can then arrange for the deceased’s assets to be collected in, apply to close any bank accounts, claim pensions, life insurance policies, enter into a contract to sell property and basically act as the deceased would have done themselves.

Executor's Account

Sometimes an executor or administrator can open an Executor’s Account at a bank of their choice. This will enable the executor or administrator to collect in any monies due, make all necessary payments to liabilities as required under the probate process and eventually distribute the estate to the beneficiaries. If you have instructed solicitors then they will deal with this for you.

Estate Accounts

Once all monies are collected in and debts paid in full, the Personal Representative will be required to produce detailed Estate Accounts providing a breakdown of all of the deceased’s assets that have been collected in and of all the liabilities and expenses of the estate that have been paid. The PR must then provide details of how the estate is to be distributed between each beneficiary. Once all the payments have been made to the beneficiaries, the executor or administrator should be left with a nil balance in the executor’s accounts.

In making payments to the beneficiaries the probate process differs depending on whether there is a Will. If there is a Will, then payment or distribution is made as detailed and provided for in the deceased’s Will.

If there is no Will then payment or distribution is made to the beneficiaries according to the Intestacy Rules.

In both cases, the Personal Representative of the Estate will be entrusted with significant responsibilities during the Probate process and will be held personally responsible for any errors that are made. For this reason, many choose to instruct Seatons’ Probate Solicitors, gaining the peace of mind that the matter is being dealt with by experienced professionals.

The above is a brief summary detailing the main probate process and is intended as a guide only. For more information or help with the probate process then please telephone us on 01536 276300 for a free, no-obligation chat or email adrian@seatons.co.uk for more information and quote “probate process”.

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Adrian Chambers - Seatons Solicitors

Probate & Estate Specialists

I’m Adrian Chambers and specialise in Probate and Estate matters. We aim to provide our clients with an outstanding legal service.

We will help and support you and most importantly we work hard for you.

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Please contact us for a free, no obligation chat on 01536 276300 or contact us online.

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