Probate is not always required for small estates in England & Wales. There are laws in place which allow certain assets to be transferred to someone else, and also allows for a maximum of £5,000 cash to be paid out without the need for Probate.
However, Banks and building societies have their own internal rules about how much money they will release without Probate. This could be as little as £5,000 or as much as £25,000. If a bank or building society asks for Probate, even for a small amount of money, you may have to apply for it.
It’s hard to define exactly what a small estate is and how much this would be worth. £5,000 is the lower limit set but the type of assets in the estate will usually decide if you need Probate or not. If there is land or a property included in the estate, you will normally need Probate unless the land or property is held in joint names. If this is the case, it will usually automatically pass to the surviving joint owner, usually the spouse, civil partner or partner.
If you have been told by a bank or building society that Probate is needed, you can either apply for the Grant of Representation (often called Grant of Probate) yourself or ask a Probate Solicitor to do this for you.
The process includes completing a Probate application form and then filling in an Inheritance Tax form. If the estate is small, you probablt won't have to pay Inheritance Tax, but you will still need to complete the form to show that no Inheritance Tax is due.
How to Value an Estate
When calculating the value of the estate, you must include all money, investments, any property and all possessions. This is so that any item that is worth anything can be sold. This valuation will be used for getting the Grant of Probate and also for calculating whether Inheritance Tax is payable.
In addition, for Inheritance Tax purposes, you will need to know if the person who died made any gifts during their lifetime. There are rules about whether gifts can be excluded and these may need to be added to the calculations.
Basic Guide on How to Value an Estate
Step 1 - Work out the total amount held with banks and other financial institutions, then value any other assets in the estate such as the house, car and personal effects. If any items are worth more than £500 you should consider using a professional to value them.
Step 2 - Calculate the total of the assets and deduct any debts
Step 3 - The total amount you calculate will help you decide if you need to pay Inheritance Tax. The current Inheritance Tax threshold is £325,000. The Inheritance Tax rules are complex, and could involve other factors and not just the assets owned in the estate.
Step 4 - Complete the correct Inheritance Tax form, depending on whether or not there is Inheritance Tax to pay. This is unlikely for a small estate.
Once the valuation of the estate is done, you can apply for the Grant of Probate. You will need to send off the Inheritance Tax form together with the Probate application form, plus an official copy of the death certificate, the Will if there is one, along with 3 copies of it and the correct fee.
After the Probate office has received and processed the application form, they will send you an oath that you’ll need to swear or affirm. You will need to arrange an appointment with either a Solicitor or at a local Probate office near you.
Once you have sworn the oath and returned it to the Probate office, the Grant of Probate will be sent through normally within 10 working days.
You can apply for additional copies of the Grant of Probate so you can send them at the same time to all the various organisations, such as banks or building societies. Once you have completed the paperwork, collected all the assets and paid all the debts, you can start to give the beneficiaries named in the Will their share of the estate.
The Grant of Probate is usually just the start of the work and this may already seem like a lot to do. Don’t worry, you don’t need to do this alone.
At Co-op Legal Services, we offer a Complete Probate Service to take away the stress and worry of the Probate process at this difficult time.
Our Complete Probate Service will follow the process for you from start to finish, calculating the estate, applying for the Grant of Probate and even distributing the assets as instructed in the Will.
When you choose our Complete Probate Service we will make an appointment for you with one of our local Probate Consultants to visit you at home to run through the value of the estate, establish if Probate is required and help you with some practical advice and guidance. Many of our customers think that our in-home visit services makes the Probate process that little bit easier.
"The service provided by the Probate team and Co-op Funeralcare has been excellent. At this difficult time it's so much easier dealing with one organisation and keeping everything under one roof rather than shopping around, especially as everyone comes to visit you at home to sort things out." Mrs L., North Yorkshire
Read more about what our customers say by visiting our testimonials page.
To speak with a Probate Advisor call Co-op Legal Services on 03306069584 or contact us and we will help you.
Local Probate Consultants are available in England & Wales only for our Complete Probate Service.