Dealing with the emotions surrounding death is difficult enough but once a loved one passes away, someone has to deal with their estate. In most situations, a grant of probate is given to the executor of a will to carry out the wishes of their loved one.
In this probate guide, we’ll go through what probate is, the steps to get it done and some of the problems that can arise. We’ll work through it together! 💛
What is probate?
If someone dies with a will then they would have elected someone to carry out their wishes, an executor. ✍️ Before they can carry out their wishes, they need to apply for a Grant of Probate, a document that gives them legal authority.
If there is no will, then a Grant of Administration is applied for instead. While technically not probate, it is often referred to as such and the same rules apply once it has been granted. This can get more complicated in terms of who can apply for a Grant of Administration but this is usually the closest living relative.
How to apply for a Grant of Probate?
Most people will complete the process through a solicitor or a probate specialist but if you want to do it yourself, you can. If there is inheritance tax to pay then you’ll need to complete that process before the probate application.
The government has some details on probate as well, so feel free to take a look
In terms of cost, there is no fee for probate on any estate under the value of £5,000, however, there is a fee of £215 for anything above that. Extra copies of probate cost £1.50 and it's worth getting a few for different people or companies.
You can either apply for probate online or via post. To do this you’ll need to have the original will and the original death certificate. Once you’ve applied, it can take up to four weeks to receive the Grant of Probate and then you can start settling the estate. The estate is all the money and property that one owns at the time of death.
The FULL probate process.
Step-by-step. The complete process of probate essentially starts when a person passes, and ends when you’ve finished dividing their estate. Here we look at all the steps to take.
1 Registering the death
There is a register office for every local area and this is where the death would need to be registered. This must be completed within 8 days of death in Scotland and 5 days within the rest of the UK unless the death has been reported to the coroner.
You’ll then receive the certificate of registration of death, which can be passed onto everyone who needs to be informed, such as the HMRC, council, banks and insurance companies. This can be an exhausting process but there are a few services that can help such as the Tell Us Once service from the government and Death Notification Service for financial institutions.
2 Finding the will
You want to find the will immediately, as it could have instructions regarding the deceased’s wishes upon death. It’s likely that a person already knows they are to be the executor and should know how to find the will. If you’re not certain where the will is (and it’s not stored safely with us at Bequest 🔒) this article could help you out.
3 Applying for a Grant of Probate
The next step is to apply for the Grant of Probate as we went through earlier. This includes completing an inheritance tax form and paying any tax due. There is a threshold of £325,000 and if the estate is valued below that, no tax needs to be paid.
4 Paying all debts
If the deceased had any solely liable mortgages, loans, credit cards, arrears etc. then these would need to be paid from the estate. If there are any debts jointly named, then they will continue as a sole debt for the other person. If there is not enough money in the estate to pay off sole debts, then these will be written off.
Secured debts, such as the mortgage, would be expected to be paid first and then funeral costs and unsecured debts, such as a credit card after. Even if there is no money left in the estate, you should contact all creditors to inform them of the situation and close all accounts.
5 Sharing assets
Once you have completed the above steps, you can then distribute the assets in accordance with the will. This is usually fairly simple and families often work out how to divide sentimental and personal assets (the stuff!). If there is no will, then families will often do what they think is fair but rules of intestacy are in place for assets to go to their closest living relative.
Can I contest probate?
Sometimes there are certain things written in a will that people don’t agree with. While this may not happen often, you can challenge the will for a variety of reasons.
- If you think the will is forged.
- The deceased had reduced mental capacity while writing it.
- You think they were under undue influence.
You were financially dependent on the deceased and the will doesn’t provide for you.
If you think that any of these apply then you can contact a solicitor to contest the will.
Can I do probate on my own?
Many people choose to use a specialist to conduct the probate process rather than do it themselves. It is entirely up to you, but during such an emotional time it’s always nice to have some professional help. If you’re looking for some assistance, our partners at James Pearson Estate Planning JPEP can help you out! Also, if you get a will with us, James is your go-to for help and questions anyways 🙌