Navigating the complexities of probate can be a daunting experience, especially during a time of bereavement. Not many people know what they need to do when a loved one passes away or how to start the process of managing their estate. Typically, the first step is applying for a Grant of Probate and this will enable you to start administering the estate.
To help with this crucial step, our probate team at Gillhams Solicitors have put together a guide covering how to apply for a Grant of Probate.
It’s always advisable to seek advice from probate solicitors if you’re unsure how to sort out the formalities following the death of a loved one. An expert team can provide the guidance you need at this difficult time, and any legal costs can be taken out of the estate.
Understanding the Grant of Probate
Before starting the application process, it’s essential to understand what a Grant of Probate is.
Essentially, applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions
(their estate) when they die is called applying for probate. A Grant of Probate, is a legal document issued by the Probate Registry that confirms the authority to manage the estate of a deceased person. Applying for probate and obtaining the Grant of Probate is a crucial step in administering the deceased’s person’s estate allowing you to access and distribute the deceased’s assets.
Locate the Will
The first official step is to locate the deceased’s will. This document not only determines who
should apply for probate but also outlines the distribution of the estate. You can apply for a Grant of Probate if you’re an executor of your loved one’s will and, if there is more than one executor, you all need to decide and agree on who makes the application. It is possible to name up to four executors on the application.
If there is no will, or the executors in the will cannot act, then the closest living relative can
usually apply for Letters of Administration, which function very similarly to a Grant of Probate. For simplicity, we refer only to a Grant of Probate in this article, but the same steps would apply in administering the estate whether using a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
Assess if Probate is Necessary
Not all estates require a Grant of Probate. The need for probate largely depends on the value and complexity of the deceased person’s assets. Generally, if the estate and assets were jointly owned, and are passing to the surviving co-owner, probate may not be needed. Similarly, if your loved one had savings or premium bonds, you may not need to apply for a Grant of Probate. Consulting with an experienced probate solicitor can provide clarity on whether this step is necessary for estate administration in your specific circumstances.
Value the Estate
Before applying for probate, you need to assess and value the estate. This includes everything your loved one owned at the time of death, such as their property, savings and possessions. An accurate valuation is crucial, as it may have implications for Inheritance Tax. Even if there is unlikely to be any Inheritance Tax to pay, you still need to value the estate as part of the probate application process. Working out the value of an estate can be complicated and you may want to get some professional guidance with this step too.
Pay Any Inheritance Tax Due
Inheritance Tax must be paid before you apply for a Grant of Probate. This is done by completing the appropriate inheritance tax forms and paying HMRC any tax due.
The amount of tax due depends on the estate’s value and the tax laws at the time of death. In some cases, it’s possible to pay this tax in instalments and if you pay the tax out of your own bank account, you can claim it back from the estate. It is sometimes also possible to ask banks, building societies or National Savings & Investments to use funds from the deceased person’s accounts to pay some or all of the Inheritance Tax. This is called the Direct Payment Scheme.
Inheritance Tax is a complex and specialised area of law, and the executor is personally
responsible for paying it, so you may wish to use a professional to complete inheritance tax
accounts. Any legal costs can be taken out of the estate.
Apply for a Grant of Probate
The final step is to apply for a Grant of Probate. In the UK, you can do this yourself online or by post and it involves submitting specific forms to the Probate Registry. The necessary forms can vary depending on the estate’s complexity and whether or not there’s a will. You can also get a probate solicitor to apply for you and this can be the more straightforward option.
Receive the Grant of Probate
Once all forms are submitted and reviewed by the Probate Registry, you will be issued the Grant of Probate. This document confirms the legal authority to manage the deceased’s estate. It can take longer than you may expect to receive probate and you can usually expect to receive it within sixteen weeks. In some circumstances, additional information may be required by the Probate Registry which can slow down the progress of your application.
Speak to Probate Solicitors in London
Applying for a Grant of Probate is a significant step in managing a deceased loved one’s estate. The process can seem overwhelming, but understanding the steps involved can help simplify the task. While it’s possible to apply for a Grant of Probate without legal assistance, the process can be complex and time-consuming. Probate solicitors can provide invaluable support, ensuring the application is completed correctly and efficiently. They can also offer guidance on any potential complications, such as disputes over the will or complex estate arrangements.
Most importantly, any legal costs can be taken out of the estate and so you can obtain this
invaluable support at no direct cost to you.
For personalised assistance from probate solicitors in London, contact our team at Gillhams Solicitors today. Our highly skilled probate team can shoulder the burden of this difficult process and provide peace of mind during a challenging time. We have many years of experience working on a wide range of estates and we can assure you that you will be in very safe hands when you turn to us for support.