Probate: Avoid a difficult process when dealing with the financial affairs of someone who has died

If someone dies leaving a valid Will, having owned property, savings or investments, probate is the process of administering their estate. Some financial institutions may also ask for a Grant of Probate (‘Grant’) before releasing assets, such as shares. Technically, applying for the Grant is seeking permission to administer the estate.

Where there are jointly owned assets such a bank or building society account, or property, probate will not be needed as they automatically pass to the survivor.

In some instances, a financial institution may not require a Grant if the amount of savings held is below a certain level. These do vary, however, between different banks and building societies.

What steps are involved? 

Broadly speaking there are 3 steps:

Completing the application for the Grant

This involves notifying all the institutions with whom the deceased had dealt with, notifying beneficiaries, obtaining details of all assets and then completing the application for the Grant and tax returns for HMRC, if applicable. Shortly after you’ve applied for the Grant, you will receive an oath which must be witnessed by a solicitor. This is a promise that you’ve been honest with what you’ve declared.

Applying for the funds

Once you’ve received the Grant, you have permission to apply for the funds from the various institutions, settle any liabilities, including inheritance tax if applicable. Remember, if inheritance tax is due, it must be paid before the Grant is issued.

Distributing the assets according to the will

Once you’ve received all the proceeds owed to the estate, which may include the proceeds from the sale of property, you are able to distribute the assets according to the will.

How long does it take?

Typically, a simple estate may take 4-6 months. More complex estates take longer. It is often difficult to estimate how long the process may take. 

Should you seek professional help?

If you’re busy running your life, running a business, or simply feel the whole process is too upsetting, you should consider obtaining professional help.

The probate process is hugely time consuming and you’ll have many legal obligations to fulfil. An executor is also liable for any penalties as a result of errors or omissions. Worrying about these kinds of complications can be a real burden when you’re grieving.

If the estate is complex or the will of the deceased contains a trust, it would be prudent to seek help. You may need legal or tax advice, as not all estates are the same.

We can put you in touch with a solicitor to deal with probate for you and support you through the process.

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