Here at LR Estate Planning we have found that some people are unsure as to what the probate process is – and some people have never even heard of the word ‘probate’. Even if this is not your first time dealing with probate, it’s not something you do every day, so it can be quite daunting. So, make sure you get the right team behind you. Because when you need a helping hand our Advisers will be with you for every step of the journey.
The first step of the probate process is to register the death. If a coroner is dealing with the body, you can only register the death after they have released the body. The body may have had to be sent to the coroner if: the cause of death is unknown, or if the death was violent or unnatural, sudden or unexplained. There could be a number of reasons for the body being sent to a coroner. Once the body has been released by the coroner and the death has been registered you can then apply for a death certificate.
When you have this certificate, you will then be able to apply for probate. The process for probate will vary depending on how the deceased’s estate was left and whether they left a valid Will. We advise you to speak to an LR Estate Planning Adviser.
If a valid Will is in place the Executor or Administrator of the Will needs to apply for a Grant of Probate. This is a legal document which confirms that the Executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets, such as property, money and belongings. These are all classed as ‘the estate’. And the process is called ‘administering the estate’.
What is probate?
Probate is a process that you go through if you are named as an Executor of a Will. The process involves applying to the Probate Registry for a legal document called a Grant of Probate, which then gives you the authority to deal with the deceased’s affairs. Without this legal document you won’t be able to deal with the deceased’s financial assets and with the obligations of administrating the estate. This includes selling property, claiming on insurance policies, closing bank and building society accounts and selling shares and updating Beneficiaries about the progress of the process.
How long does probate take?
This depends on the size of the estate. Typically, the starting point is to value the assets and liabilities, after which the inheritance tax returns can be completed. It is only once this has been done that will you be able to file the application to the probate registry. Once the Grant of Probate is issued, the assets can be collected, and the estate distributed. The probate process for estates that fall below the inheritance tax threshold can typically be completed in around two or three months.
If the estate is much larger, and the deceased had lots of assets, it could take up to six months.
(Please remember that these figures represent a guide only).
What do I do if there is no Will?
The rules relating to what happens to a person’s estate if they die without a Will are known as ‘Intestacy’. In other words, if a person dies without a Will their estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy laws. The role of Executor will fall to the deceased’s next of kin and it will be their responsibility to apply for a grant of administration to allow them to deal with the administration of the estate. It is important to note that an unmarried partner is NOT recognised as next of kin. This means that they cannot deal with the administration of the estate – and they are not automatically entitled to benefit from the deceased’s estate.
What are the rules of intestacy?
They are complex, so here at LR Estate Planning we will always advise that you should seek independent legal advice before dealing with an intestate estate. This is because who inherits what depends on the deceased’s marital status on the date of their death and on whether they have any children. Here is a simple breakdown:
An unmarried couple – your partner is not entitled to inherit anything.
Married with no children – your spouse is entitled to inherit your entire estate.
Married with a child or children – your spouse is entitled to the first £250,000.
The remainder of the estate will be shared as follows: the husband, wife or civil partner gets an absolute interest in half of the remainder and the other half is then divided equally between the surviving children.
This is a very simple breakdown and the rules may vary, depending on your individual situation. This is why it is advisable to seek specialist advice – so contact LR Estate Planning.
Why should I have a reserve Executor?
If your chosen Executor decides that they don’t want to take on the responsibilities of administrating the estate, we will take over the role of acting as reserve Executor for a small fee. Talk to your Estate Planner for more information.
What is a grant of administration?
If the deceased has dies without a Will (i.e. dies intestate), letters of administration will need to be obtained by the next of kin. Without this document, the next of kin will not be able to distribute the assets of the estate.
Do I need to inform the beneficiaries about the probate proses?
It is advisable that you explain to them what needs to happen before the inheritance is paid out.
Can I sell the deceased’s home?
This is a frequently-asked question. Property that forms part of an estate can be marketed but not sold until a Grant of Probate has been made. This will not be made until any inheritance tax due has been paid. Talk to an LR Estate Planner for the best advice about this.
Can I remove a bank or solicitor who is an Executor?
If the Testator i.e. ‘the person who makes the Will” is still alive and would like to make such a change, they could either change their Will with a Codicil or write a new Will, naming a different Executor. If the Testator has already died then an Executor can only be removed with presumably the agreement of that Executor or by the Courts. It is important to remember that there are benefits in appointing a professional Executor, especially if it is a complex estate.
We lived together but weren’t married or civil partners. Will I benefit from the estate?
If you weren’t married or registered as civil partners and your partner did not make a valid Will including you as a beneficiary of their estate, you will not automatically inherit under intestacy laws.
What are the first things I should do if someone dies?
When someone passes away, it is usually a traumatic time and it can be confusing knowing what to do next. So here is a simple breakdown of what you will need to do when someone dies. You must:
How will you help me obtain probate?
We will take on the case on and refer it to one of our probate specialists. If you are writing your Will, we will deal with that directly without needing to refer it.
What happens when probate is obtained?
Once the Executor has been granted probate, they have official permission to deal with the estate’s assets and are allowed to: collect the assets from the estate, including any money due from the sale of property or objects; pay any outstanding debts or bills; and distribute assets to Beneficiaries as stipulated in the Will.
If I have started the probate process and I no longer want the responsibilities of being the Executor can I appoint someone else?
Yes, for instance, you can appoint LR Estate Planning to carry out the role on your behalf. However, all the Beneficiaries must agree with your choice of Executor.
If the estate is very small, will I still need probate?
Probably not – but talk to an LR Estate Planning Adviser) for expert advice about this.