What is Probate and How Does it Work?

13 May 2016

Probate is a legal process you may have to go through when someone dies. The Probate document issued by the Court is confirmation that you have legal right to deal with the estate. It is known as a Grant of Representation, which can be either a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Not all estates need Probate, but if the estate includes a property or land held in the sole name of the person who died, you will probably need to apply for a Grant of Representation. If the estate does not include land or property, you may still need to apply for a Grant of Representation.

This is because each bank or building society has its own financial limits. Any amount above these limits will require Probate before releasing the funds in the account. Some banks or building society’s limits for Probate are as low as £5,000, where others can be as high as £25,000. This shows how difficult it can be to work out whether you need a Grant of Representation or not.

The Probate Process in England and Wales:

Step 1. Is there a Will?

If there is, this will usually decide who administers the estate, providing that they want to act as Executor.

If there is no Will, the next of kin (usually a spouse, civil partner or child) will have to apply to become the ‘administrator’ of the estate.

Step 2. Calculate Inheritance Tax (IHT)

You’ll need to work out whether there is any Inheritance Tax (IHT) to pay. You can start doing this by calculating the value of the estate. This should include the value of all the assets including property, cash and belongings, and deducting any outstanding debts. Whether or not IHT is payable is dependent on a number of additional factors and can be quite complex to calculate so you should obtain professional help if you are not sure.

Step 3. Apply for the Grant of Representation

Once you have the Grant of Representation (where there is a Will) or the Grant of Letters of Administration (where there is no Will), you should be able to deal with the banks or other financial institutions that have requested it, and continue with the administration of the estate.

Step 4. Collect all Assets and Pay any Debts

Once you have started to cash in the assets in the estate, you should use the funds to pay any outstanding debts.

Step 5. Distribute the Estate

Once you have completed all of the steps above, you can finally distribute the estate. You should follow the instructions in the Will, if there was one. If not, there are specific legal rules determining how the estate must be distributed. These rules are known as Intestacy.

You can apply for Probate yourself or you can ask a legal professional to help you. It is your choice. There are many reasons why you may want to do it yourself.

If the estate is not complicated and is low in value, completing Probate yourself could be the right choice. However, you should be prepared for a significant amount of administrative work when completing the Probate process. This will not faze some people, but for others this may prove too much to take on.

You do have a choice though and you don’t have to take on Probate yourself unless you are completely comfortable with all of the responsibilities that come with it.

If you decide to go ahead with Probate alone, you should be aware that you may be held legally responsible for any errors that are made.

Many people find that taking on Probate, with lots of paperwork and administrative work can be too difficult at an already stressful time. But you do have three options.

The first is to get the forms yourself, research the Probate process and complete the work without any help from a legal professional. You can get guidance from the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline, but they can only help with the completion of the Probate application form and cannot usually offer you specific legal advice or help.

Your second option is to buy a DIY Probate Kit. These kits can give you examples of all the forms and documents you need to complete Probate yourself along with a step by step instruction guide. It covers what happens when there is a Will and what to do if there is no Will.

Even though you are still completing Probate yourself, a DIY Probate Kit does give you some guidance and support along the way.

Your final option is to ask a legal professional to complete Probate for you. Many people feel overwhelmed after someone dies. There is so much to do and Probate is another additional burden.

At Co-op Legal Services we can help take away some of the stresses and pressures from the Probate process. Our Complete Probate Service offers a full service approach to Probate, including arranging the sale of the property, completing all of the paperwork and making sure the estate is distributed correctly.

Our professional and experienced Probate Consultants offer a free home to discuss your needs and requirements and provide you with a quote for the work. Once agreed, the Probate Consultant will pass on your details to your Probate Case Handler, who will manage the estate for you from start to finish.

We’ll keep you informed every step of the way, and you’ll have your Case Handler’s direct dial telephone number and email address for any questions or queries that come up along the way.

But don’t just take our word for it. Our customers said:

"Thank you for all your help. It would have been a very traumatic year without your help." F. B., Kent

"Thorough, complete, courteous, and value for money. All in all an excellent service from start to finish for which I am most grateful." Mr A., Stafford

You can read more about what our customer think about our service on our Probate testimonials page.

For more information about our Complete Probate Service call 03306069584 or contact us and we will help you.

Co-op Legal Services is the largest provider of Probate and Estate administration services in England and Wales, and trusted to deal with over £1.3 billion in Estates annually.

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