In the UK, when someone dies, the family or executor, if there is a will, needs to apply for a Grant of Probate, which gives them the authority from the court to ‘administer’, or manage, the deceased’s estate. Who applies for probate depends on whether there is a will or not. Even if the value of the deceased’s estate is under the tax threshold of £5,000, probate will still be needed.
When a will has been left, it is usually the executors named in the will who apply for probate. In some cases, the executors may have died before the deceased, or they are no longer able to carry out their duties for a variety of reasons. If there are no executors, either the family’s appointed solicitor or a family member is able to apply for probate.
If there isn’t a will, a family member or next of kin will need to apply for probate, for what is called Letters of Administration. This appoints them as Administrators and gives them the authority to administer and manage the deceased’s estate.
What is probate?
Probate is the court’s official authorisation which allows the executor(s) to administer the deceased’s estate. The process includes valuing the estate and assessing whether any Inheritance Tax (IHT) is due to be paid, settling with HMRC, finalising the deceased’s accounts and distributing assets to the beneficiaries according to the deceased’s wishes.
Probate’s Letters of Administration are the same, albeit for an estate where the deceased has not left a will but a grant. In these situations, it is usually the next of kin that applies for probate. However, this can be done by a solicitor on their behalf, as we are able to do at Norfolk Will Writing. It will give them the authorisation to administer the estate in the same way an executor would do so.
Do I need to apply for probate?
In 2021, the requirements for probate changed in that any deceased’s estate, whether there is a will or not, probate must be applied for but, in terms of Inheritance Tax (IHT), if the value of the estate is under £5,000, no tax is due to be paid. The main reason for this is that a bank, or any other financial firm, will need what’s called a Grant of Representation to be able to release any money, insurance payout or life assurance to beneficiaries. In addition, in most cases, any property that belonged to the deceased will be part of their estate and will be one of the most valuable assets.
If the deceased left a will, the appointed executor(s) applies for probate. If there isn’t a will, the deceased’s next of kin, or if there is no family, a close friend of the deceased or a solicitor can apply for Letters of Administration. Both grant the recipient the authority to administer the deceased’s estate.
There are other situations where Letters of Administration are needed instead of a Grant of Probate, and they are:
- One person has been left the entire estate;
- There are no executors named in the will;
- The named executors are not prepared to accept the role.
It is not always necessary to apply for probate. For example, if the majority of the deceased’s estate is jointly owned with their living spouse or civil partner.
The probate process
The whole probate process is lengthy and involves quite a bit of legal, financial and tax paperwork. It is also time-consuming, and in a lot of cases, the legal jargon can be difficult to understand. At Norfolk Will Writing, we are able to advise families and executors on the probate process as well as being able to handle the entire process on your behalf.
There are essentially five steps to the probate process, which are:
1. Identifying and valuing the deceased’s assets – all of the deceased’s possessions and their assets need to be identified, assessed and valued. These will include any property, investments, insurance and life policies, jewellery, artwork and furniture. You will also need to find out about any debts, loans and utility bills – the utility companies will provide you with the final bills. At the same time, you will need to apply for probate to get the right documents and verify beneficiary entitlements, particularly in the deceased died intestate (without a will).
2. HMRC – in the majority of cases, Inheritance Tax will be payable on the value of the deceased’s estate. It’s important that the right tax forms are completed as they will need to be submitted with the probate application – the Probate Registry service sends the forms to HMRC. Once HMRC has verified the forms, they will notify the Probate Registry, and the tax bill will need to be paid. Depending on how the deceased’s estate is made up, there may be Capital Gains Tax to pay as well.
3. Administering the estate – once probate has been granted, the deceased’s assets that aren’t being left to beneficiaries can be sold, usually to raise funds to pay the tax bill. Administration fees need to be settled as well as any other liabilities, like utility bills.
4. Drawing up the estate’s accounts – once all payments have been settled, it is important to draw up the accounts for the estate, which demonstrates what’s been paid and the balance remaining. This is usually sent to the beneficiaries and/or family for their approval.
5. Beneficiary distribution – as long as no one has challenged the estate or there aren’t any other complications that could potentially delay distribution, the relevant assets are transferred to the named beneficiaries in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.
At Norfolk Will Writing, our highly experienced, professional probate team can manage the entire probate process on your behalf, offering a tailored service and providing support and valuable advice for your peace of mind.
At Norfolk Will Writing, we have been helping our clients write their wills and assisting executors of estates and families manage the probate process for over 20 years. We offer a personalised service, keeping the process as simple and easy as possible. Our experienced consultants are on hand to guide you at every step. Contact us for your free consultation and to book an appointment with one of our consultants to discuss writing your will today or carrying out your executor duties.