Dealing with the loss of a loved one will always be an experience no one wants to deal with. To be realistic, it is inevitable and no one can escape it. Dividing up the estate of the deceased loved one could turn into a messy affair – if due care is not exercised. To begin with, the whole process can be quite vexing if you don’t know your way around it.
To exercise legal right over the estate of a deceased, there are a number of things to do. One of the important ones is to get a grant of probate.
What Is A Grant Of Probate?
There are usually properties (tangible or intangible) left behind when a loved one passes. These are generally referred to as the ‘estate’ of the deceased. This estate would have to be sorted out. A person tasked with this duty would require one of two (2) things;
- A grant of probate if a will has been left,
- A grant of letter of administration if the deceased passed without a will or original will is lost and copy is not accepted
Our focus will be on probate. First off, it is crucial to note that probate is the same for everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, it is however called ‘confirmation‘.
So, what exactly is it and why do you need one?
‘Probate’ itself is generally used to refer to the process of applying for the grant and the document required to manage the estate. The grant of probate will give you the legal authority to administer the estate of the deceased.
Simply put, the grant of probate confers you – the executor – the power to administer the estate of a deceased. This authority means you have the power to tidy up unresolved matters left behind by the deceased. Importantly, you’re also tasked with the duty to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries of the will.
When Do You Need To Get A Grant Of Probate?
The grant of probate will require that you gather the assets, pay debts, and distribute the leftover among beneficiaries. As an executor, it is required by law that you get a grant of probate. There may however be exceptions to this requirement. You may not be required to get a probate grant if the estate is worth less than £10,000.
Another exception is when the estate left behind was jointly owned with a spouse. In this instance, the property will pass to the other partner.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Grant Of Probate?
In almost all cases, a grant of probate will be completed between four to eight weeks after submission of the application. The time-frame for the performance of your duty after being granted probate depends on various factors. Each estate will be resolved according to its own special case.
Of course, we can agree that this process will take less time to complete if you consult probate specialists that know their way around.
Step-By-Step Guide On How To Obtain A Grant Of Probate
From our experience at Erikas Grig Chartered Surveyors, we have come to realize that most probate cases follow almost the same process. If you’ve decided to apply for the grant of probate yourself, this section will help you identify the simplified step-by-step guide to doing so. Here goes the to-do list of all things important.
1. Register The Death
The first foot to put forward is registering the death of the loved one. This is because a copy of the death certificate will be required during the probate application. Registration is usually done by a relative. There are nonetheless some instances where it can be done by a non-relative.
The registration of death must be done within five (5) days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the time-frame is eight (8) days. This registration can be done at the designated register office of the area where the deceased passed. If you don’t know where the register office close to you is, you can find out here.
Documents Required To Register A Death
The Medical certificates of the cause of death, a birth certificate, marriage or civil partnership certificate are vital documents to register a death. You may also need to take along the National Health Service (NHS) medical card of the deceased (if you have it).
It is advisable to make use of the ‘Tell Us Once’ tool on gov.uk. This tool allows you to report a death to all Government organizations in one go. The organizations covered include most Government organizations that deal with council tax, benefits, passport, and driving license info.
Another tool that will come in handy is the Death Notification Service that reports the death to banks, building societies, and other financial firms in one go.
2. Find Out If There’s A Will
The grant of probate hinges on the existence of a Will. If the deceased passed without a will (that is, intestate), the rules governing intestacy will apply. As identified, the will of the deceased must first be found as early as possible. The will may contain ‘death wishes’ regarding funeral rites.
Also, the will identifies the executors to the will and the beneficiaries. When the executor is not named, or a person so-named is unable to carry out such function, a beneficiary of the estate may apply to be an ‘administrator’ of the estate.
3. Value The Estate
Valuing the size of the estate is one of the vital steps to take before filing the application forms for grant of probate. The estate of a deceased will include assets that they owned or had an interest in such as:
- Money in banks and other financial institutions
- Land or buildings
- Interests in businesses or investments like stocks, shares, ISAs etc
- Personal items or contents of the home
- Life insurance/ pension
- Debts owed by other persons, etc.
To go about the probate valuation, you will have to identify both the assets and liabilities of the deceased. This in itself can prove to be very complex. Some of the agencies you may have to contact include banks, lenders, fund managers or stockbrokers, pension providers, the local government, the Department of Work and Pensions, HMRC, and so on.
It may be easy to ascertain and add up money in the bank accounts. Other types of properties will however require adequate valuation by specialist chartered surveyors. Importantly so, for the purpose of inheritance tax (IHT), a written valuation from accredited and well-known surveyors like us will ease your affairs with HMRC.
4. File Probate Applications
Once you’ve been able to value the size of the estate, you can then go ahead to file the probate applications. A probate application form (PA1P) can be downloaded from HM Courts & Tribunals Service website. Alternatively, you can fill the PA1P form online.
Note that after you supply the right paperwork, you still need to sign a statement of truth declaring that the details provided are accurate.
5. File Inheritance Tax Forms
Even if your papers are in good shape and HMRC accepts your submission, you still have to file and pay Inheritance Tax (IHT) in advance if it is due. This is because you’ll need to provide the inheritance tax reference and the value of the estate during your application.
To ease your own troubles, you should submit a form to HMRC to ascertain whether or not you have to pay IHT on the estate. If the estate is taxable under IHT, the IHT has to be resolved before the probate will be granted to you. In most instances, the taxes have to be paid within six (6) months to be counted from the end of the month of death. The IHT may however be deferred and paid in instalments. The assets that can enjoy payments in instalments include the specified assets, including land, some shares and the value of any business owned.
Generally, if the probate value of the estate is below the IHT threshold of £325,000, you will have to use form IHT205. If it is above the IHT threshold, form IHT400 is appropriate for you. You may fill both forms IHT205 and IHT400 forms online.
A direct payment can be made to the HMRC if there’s enough money in the bank to settle the inheritance tax. To do this, you will have to send an IHT423 form to the required bank(s). If the money in the bank is not sufficient to pay the IHT, you – as the executor/administrator – can take a loan out of your own pocket or from banks. This loan will then be repaid from the estate after the probate is granted.
6. Pay Probate Fees
The grant of probate is also contingent upon payment of the required probate fees. In England and Wales, this fee is £215.
In Northern Ireland and Scotland, the fees are £220 and £200 respectively. This is notwithstanding the size of the estate. A concession is however made for estates with less than £5,000 valuation. For the less than £5,000 probate value estates, the probate fee is lower and put at £155 if you apply through a solicitor.
If you’re interested in getting extra copies of the grant of probate, you will have to pay an additional cost of £1.50 for each copy required. It is advisable that you get about five (5) copies.
The payment options you have will be determined by the mode of application you used. For online applications, payment can be made electronically through credit or debit cards. For paper applications, you can pay via Check or card payment over the phone.
7. Send Application Form
If you chose to fill the probate application form online, the only document you’ll need to submit at the probate registry is the original will and three copies of it. All other forms will have been submitted during the online registration.
If you downloaded the form and opted for the paper application, you’ll no doubt have to send your application to the local probate registry. As such, your application form must contain:
- The probate application form PA1P,
- Inheritance tax form IHT205 or IHT400,
- An official copy of the death certificate,
- The original will and three copies,
- The specified application fee.
So, what happens next after your probate application has been granted?
There are two important steps that you must take after a grant of probate has been issued to you. The first one covers settling the debts of the deceased. The second involves recovering the debts owed to the deceased. These two steps require you to send a notice or publish in the gazette.
Settling the debts of the deceased
Determining the assets of the deceased may be a tedious task. Many experienced probate specialists will tell you it still can’t compare to that of finding the creditors of the deceased (if any). All debts owed by the deceased must be repaid. But this is only if the estate is solvent enough to fund the debts. Debts in this instance will include mortgages, loans, credit and store cards, hire purchase agreements, or any other commercial debts (excluding student loans).
Going forward, once your application for probate has been granted, the next thing to do is to place a notice in the gazette asking any unidentified creditor to come forward. Doing this will mean that you ticked all boxes towards fulfilling required obligations.
Failure to do this may render you liable to such debts and creditors if they later emerge.
Recovering the debts owed to the deceased
On the other end, it is also important that you send notice to all organizations and close accounts. All organizations, government agencies, and financial or utility companies that the deceased had a relationship with must be duly informed. While it may not be known to you, some of these organizations may be debtors to the deceased. Giving them notice will allow you to recover those debts that form part of the estate of the deceased.
You may have to go through paperwork and files to find out all the organizations the deceased had a relationship with.
Let Us Help You
As you may have realized, estate valuation is critical to probate. HRMC requires that the value of properties be assessed and correctly reported. It is a common occurrence to have inaccuracies in valuations. This can cause a lot of unnecessary problems which are easily preventable with the right advice.
You need the expertise of probate specialists to put you through and make sure you don’t muddle the probate process and avoid unnecessary delays. We have a dedicated team of expert surveyors at Erikas Grig with uncountable years of experience in property and contents valuation for probate purposes.