Probate Checklist for England & Wales

20 September 2017

When someone dies, there can be a lot to do, particularly if Probate is required. The Probate process can be very difficult to manage at a time when you are grieving. This is especially true if Probate is something you’ve never been through before. 

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs*.

To help you understand the Probate process, we’ve put together a checklist to follow, starting with what you need to do after the death and finishing with the distribution of the Estate to the beneficiaries.

What to Do When Someone Dies

  1. Get a Death Certificate – A registered medical practitioner will need to confirm the death, and the cause of death. The medical practitioner will officially record these details in the Death Certificate. It’s important to keep this as you’ll need it when registering the death.

  2. Contact a Funeral Home – If the deceased person had a pre-paid funeral plan, you’ll need to contact the company the plan is held with. Otherwise the choice will be yours. You’ll be asked if the deceased had any funeral preferences, which is something you may know already. Otherwise it’s likely that any specific wishes will be recorded in the Will.

  3. Find the Will – If the deceased person had made a Will, you need to locate it shortly after their death. This will confirm if there are any funeral preferences, and establish who the Executors are. If you can’t find the Will, you should ask local Solicitors who may have been instructed by the deceased. If a Will cannot be found, the deceased will have died ‘intestate’. See the Rules of Intestacy.

  4. Secure Property – If the death has caused property and other assets to be left unattended, these need to be secured. Most commonly property and vehicles need to be locked and adequate safety measures put in place. Inform the insurance company if the property is unoccupied.

  5. Register the Death – Using the Death Certificate that you’ve been given, you need to register the death with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the area where the death happened. Assuming the Coroner isn’t involved, registering the death should happen within five days of the death. You’ll then be given a certificate that will allow the burial or cremation to take place.

  6. Get Copies of the Will and the Death Certificate – At this stage it’s useful to get copies of the Will and the Death Certificate, as you’ll need them when dealing with the deceased person’s assets. You can make copies of the Will yourself. However, to get copies of the Death Certificate you must order them from the General Register Office.

  7. Inform Organisations – You’ll need to inform certain people and organisations about the death. Most local councils offer a Tell Us Once service that tells government organisations about the death. You might also need to set up a mail redirect, tell the deceased person’s GP, and utility companies (if a property is now unoccupied).

  8. Identify the Personal Representatives – There are rules around who is allowed to deal with a deceased person’s Estate. If there’s a Will, it’s the Executors named in the Will. You’ll need to contact them and make sure they are able and willing to act. If there isn’t a Will and the deceased died intestate, it’s someone who will inherit from the Estate (which is determined by the Rules of Intestacy). This person is called the Administrator. The overarching term for Executors and Administrators is Personal Representatives.

  9. Find Out if Probate is Needed – The Personal Representative will need to find out if Probate is required. Probate isn’t required every time someone dies. Usually it won’t be necessary if the deceased held all their assets in joint names with someone else who is still alive, or if he/she owned very little. Our Probate Advisors can confirm whether or not Probate is required, although we’ll need to understand roughly what assets are in the Estate.

  10. Administer the Estate – If Probate is not needed, the Personal Representative can gather in the deceased person’s assets. You’ll need the Death Certificate and ID to show that you’re entitled to handle the assets. The Estate can then be distributed to the beneficiaries (as set out in the Will, or in line with the Rules of Intestacy if there isn’t a Will).

  11. Calculate the Value of the Estate – If Probate is needed, the  Personal Representatives will need to find out what assets the deceased person owned and how much they’re worth. It’s also necessary to confirm whether the deceased owed any outstanding debts, and if so how much.

  12. Apply for a Grant of Representation – Personal Representatives must get a Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry. To get this, they must complete a Probate PA1 form and an Inheritance Tax form. These should be sent to the Probate Registry, along with the Probate Registry fee, the original Will plus three copies, and an official copy of the Death Certificate.

  13. Pay Inheritance Tax – If Inheritance Tax is due, this must be paid or the Probate Registry will not issue a Grant of Representation. It may be necessary to get a loan in order to pay the Inheritance Tax that is due, in order to avoid late penalties.

  14. Attend a Probate Registry office for an interview and swear an Oath – If the Personal Representatives are handling Probate themselves (without the help of Probate Solicitors) they’ll be invited to attend the Probate Registry for an interview. They’ll then be asked to swear an Oath. When you use our Probate Complete Service you won’t need to do this.

  15. Receive a Grant of Representation – Personal Representatives must then wait for the Grant of Representation to arrive in the post. The assets in the Estate cannot be accessed until this has been obtained.

  16. Gather in All Assets – Once a Grant of Representation has been obtained, the Personal Representatives will be able to gather in all the assets of the Estate. This might involve closing down bank accounts, selling property, collecting pensions, and collecting stocks and shares (for which you’ll need to complete a stock and share transfer form). It’s a good idea for the Personal Representatives to open a separate bank account for the Estate’s incomings and outgoings.

  17. Pay the Debts – The deceased person's debts can then be paid using funds from the Estate.

  18. Publish Deceased Estates Notices – To help ensure all the creditors to the Estate are found, the Personal Representatives can place Deceased Estates Notices in The Gazette and the newspapers local to where the deceased lived. These will remain in place for at least 60 days.

  19. Prepare Estate Accounts – Once all the assets have been gathered in, and the tax and debts paid, the Personal Representatives will need to prepare final Estate accounts.

  20. Distribute the Estate – If the beneficiaries are satisfied with the Estate accounts, the Estate can be distributed according to the terms of the Will, or in line with the Rules of Intestacy. This may involve transferring (‘assenting’) property.

In some Estates the Probate process can be long and complicated. It also carries a significant amount of responsibility for the Personal Representatives who may be liable for any mistakes that are made.

It is for these reasons that many Personal Representatives and Executors choose to use our Probate Complete Service, as we take the responsibility off their shoulders for a fixed fee which is agreed upfront before any work starts.

* We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate owns sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to repay our costs.

If someone has died and you need help with probate, contact us:

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