Reducing the Stress of Probate
20 October 2017
Probate is the legal process of dealing with someone’s Estate after they have died. ‘Estate’ is the collective term for everything that person owned.
Probate can be a complicated process, involving a lot of highly detailed administrative work, which can take 9-12 months or more depending on the size and complexity of the Estate. The Probate process can be particularly stressful after the loss of a close friend or relative.
At Co-op Legal Services, our Probate Solicitors and Specialists can help to take the weight of this responsibility off your shoulders at this difficult time.
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*.
*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.
Some of the responsibilities which will need to be taken on during the Probate process include:
- Notifying utilities and other organisations of the death (such as HM Revenue & Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions)
- Locating all assets and calculating their value
- Calculating and paying Inheritance Tax
- Identifying and contacting the beneficiaries
- Applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate
- Closing down bank accounts
- Selling or transferring property
- Selling or transferring all the deceased’s assets
- Paying off debts, mortgages and other liabilities
- Preparing Estate accounts showing all assets and liabilities
- Distributing the remaining Estate to the beneficiaries.
Not every Estate requires Probate. Some Small Estates can be dealt with without Probate, because certain assets and up to £5,000 cash can usually be transferred legally without the need for Probate. When an Estate contains property and/or other large assets then Probate will almost certainly be required.
Who is Responsible for Dealing with the Estate?
In England or Wales, a Personal Representative will be appointed to deal with the Estate. This person will be responsible for dealing with all of the above tasks.
If the person who died left a legally valid Will, then the Personal Representative will have been named as an ‘Executor’ in the Will. The Executor is the individual that the deceased person has chosen to deal with their Estate after their death. However, the Executor is not obliged to take on the role and they have the option to decline. See Renunciation as Executor of a Will.
If there is no Will, or if the named Executor has declined to act, then a family member will need to apply to become the ‘Administrator’ of the Estate. In this instance, a strict order of priority applies, under the ‘Rules of Intestacy’ which stipulates which relative has priority to become the Administrator. This will often be a spouse, civil partner or child of the deceased.
Grant of Representation
The Grant of Representation will give the Personal Representative legal authority to deal with the Estate. This is one of the first stages of Probate, as most companies and financial institutions will not allow anyone to deal with a deceased person’s account without a Grant of Representation.
The Grant of Representation will be one of two forms:
- Grant of Probate if it’s being applied for by an Executor (as named in the Will).
- Grant of Letters of Administration if it is being applied for by a relative who is administering the Estate (if there is no Will).
Both documents entitle the holder to deal with banks and other organisations on behalf of the deceased, so that they can settle their Estate.
A personal representative must calculate the value of the Estate by establishing the value of the deceased’s assets and the total amount of outstanding debts, as at the date of their death. This is necessary to determine whether inheritance tax is payable. Generally inheritance tax is due before Probate is applied for.
Once all of the Estate assets have been collected in, it’s important to calculate whether there is any further Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax to pay. This can be complicated to work out as there are a number of contributing factors, so it’s a good idea to obtain professional help if you’re unsure.
Once the Estate assets have been cashed in, any outstanding debts can be settled with this money.
After all of the outstanding debts have been paid, the remaining money in the Estate will need to be distributed to the beneficiaries. If the deceased person left a Will then this should contain instructions on who should inherit what from their Estate. If they did not leave a Will then the Rules of Intestacy will determine who should inherit the Estate.
If any errors are made along the way, then the Personal Representative may be held legally responsible for this. As such, many people choose to appoint our Probate Solicitors and specialists to deal with Probate on their behalf.