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Understanding Probate

What is Probate?

Probate is a general term for the process of dealing with the estate of a deceased person. This is the responsibility of the executor of the will to carry out. This blog will give you a quick overlook of the probate process, who is the executor of the will and what they need to do.

Duties of ‘the executor’

Usually, one person is appointed to administer an estate when someone dies. This is called ‘the executor’. They will need to obtain a ‘grant of representation’. This is the proof that they have the authority to administer the estate. How the estate is administered is shaped by any will left by the deceased.

The named executor (or sometimes executors) will have to obtain what is known as a ‘grant of probate’. This is only if the deceased had left a will however, in many cases there isn’t a will. Therefore, instead the next of kin apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. Both processes are known generically as ‘probate’.

Who is appointed as an executor?

If a will is left, then the deceased will specify who they want to be their executor. This could be a family member, a close friend whom they trusted or a neutral third party such as a solicitor. Sometimes there will be multiple executors who will have to work together. The deceased doesn’t have to necessarily notify or seek permission before naming an executor(s).

If a will is not left by the deceased, then the estate is subject to what is called ‘intestacy rules’. Basically, this means the next of kin becomes the executor of the estate.

Bank as ‘co-executor’

Sometimes a will is drawn up using a bank and this is termed a ‘co-executor’. The Bank can insist on acting as the professional executor and carrying out the probate. This can be very expensive as the bank will charge a percentage value of the estate.

It could be beneficial to use a bank if there are lots of ongoing payments for mortgages etc. If it is a complex estate. You can ask the bank to renounce its executor role if the beneficiaries of the will agree.

If you go with a solicitor to help with applying for and carrying out probate, then always be sure to shop around. There are probate brokerage firms who can offer you more competitive prices (could be 40-50% cheaper), and solicitors that will offer a fixed rate rather than an hourly rate. Another fixed price service are trust corporations that employ lawyers, accountants and tax planners all equipped to handle the process in house.

Applying for probate

To apply for probate, the executor will need to:

  • Register the death (This must be done within 5 days, and always make extra copies of the certificate)
  • Estimate the value the estate (this includes bank accounts, loans, outstanding tax, valuable items like jewellery or even a wine collection!)
  • Value the property (see our ‘how to value my property blog for more information on this)
  • If the mortgage lender or any creditor require payments to continue a loan the executor may need to continue to pay these and recoup the money from the estate once probate has been granted.

When do I need to apply for a grant of probate?

If the value of the estate is worth less than £15 000 or the estate is passing to a surviving civil partner or spouse, then you may not need to apply for a grant of probate. In all other cases you will need to apply for one.

Which.co.uk have a handy guide here to help.

But it is always best to seek advice from the HMRC.

Once a grant of probate has been given, the executioner will pay off any debts, taxes (such as inheritance tax) and then divide up all the remaining assets between the beneficiaries.

Can I carry out probate by myself, and how much does it cost?

You don’t necessarily need to use a solicitor to apply for probate, if the assets of the estate are not complex then you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. Websites like Moneysavingexpert.com, which.co.uk, all have useful guides and tools to help you.

There are also many tools such as the Tell us Once service so you can notify the death to all government departments at once. Or you can hire a solicitor you help you apply for probate and then carry the rest out by yourself.

If you DIY probate, then you are legally responsible for meeting all legitimate claims and if you fail to act correctly you can be sued by a beneficiary, plus it can come with a tonne of paperwork. Applying for probate costs £215 if doing it by yourself or £155 if going through a solicitor.

How Sell My House Quickly Can Help

Here at Sell My House Quickly we are local property experts. We have extensive experience in dealing with all manner of property related issues or problems. Probate is something that most know very little about until they are in the unfortunate position to have lost a loved one. We understand that this can cause anxiety for anyone responsible for administering an estate. Therefore, we can be there just for a chat to talk over the issue or put you in touch with trusted solicitors that can do all the work for you.

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