Now that we at The Law Hut have been approved to offer Probate and Estate Administration services we thought that we would give you (what I hope) is a short overview of when you might need to obtain probate and the process involved in doing so.
Let's start at the beginning with what we mean when we use the word 'Probate'. In a nutshell
it is the word that describes the process to be followed in order to gain the legal right to be able deal with a deceased person's assets, liabilities and property.
Probate will not always be required for example where an asset is held jointly with another and the interest in that asset passes automatically to the surviving owner. This will be the case with a property owned as joint tenants, usually the family home for example. Another example may be where a bank balance falls under the trigger point for the bank to wish to see a Grant of Probate before it pays out the sums held.
Where the deceased left a Will a Grant of Probate is the document that gives the Executor the formal legal right to collect in the assets, pay liabilities and distribute the estate to the beneficiaries. Where no Will was left a Letter of Administration gives the same legal right to those entitled to obtain the Letter of Administration under the Intestacy Rules. This person is called an Administrator. Same legal right, just a slightly different route to follow.
Still with me? If so, I will outline the process itself which can take somewhere between 4 to 9 months to complete even with a fairly straightforward estate and sometimes longer if unexpected issues arise. I have always felt that the Probate process falls into three distinct parts.
The first part occurs immediately after death. It is important to establish whether the deceased had a Will and whether Executors have been appointed within it or where there is no Will to determine who is entitled to obtain the Letter of Administration. The Executor/Administrator will then need to find out what assets the deceased had at the date of their death. This will include any property they may have owned or had an interest in, bank and building society accounts and other investments such as Premium Bonds or ISAs. The flip side of this is to find out what liabilities the deceased had. This could include things like loans, credit card debts or even pension overpayments made after the date of death which will need to be repaid.
The second part focuses on determining the true value of the estate based upon the investigations undertaken above. You would need to see if any of the inheritance tax mitigating options were available such as the Transferable Nil Rate Band and the Residence Nil Rate Band allowances, Business Property Relief and Agricultural Property Relief. At this time a decision would also be made as to whether an IHT 205 or IHT 400 should be used when making a return for the value of the estate to HMRC. If there is a tax liability this will need to be settled with HMRC. Once this is done it is time to apply for the Grant of Probate or Letter of Administration so that accounts can be closed and any property dealt with. I should just say at this point that things are a bit hit and miss with the Probate Registry at present - you could be one of the lucky ones whose documents come back quickly or, as is more often than not the case, one of those who has to wait due to 'issues' at the Probate Registry. I could take the time to outline all the examples of 'issues' that I have come across but perhaps best not to as I wouldn't want to frighten you nor embarrass them.
The final part will see you closing accounts, paying any outstanding debts and paying any beneficiaries entitled to a share of the estate. Accounts reflecting what came into and went out of the estate should be prepared and clearance on the tax position sought from HMRC to protect those acting as Executors or Administrators.
Simples! Well not always, plus it can be a very time consuming exercise that will test your patience from time to time. That said, we are here to help you whether on an ad hoc basis or on a full administration basis and I like to think that our fees are extremely competitive. If you need help don't call the A Team, call us and have an initial no obligation chat to see how we are able to help you. t: 07827 779255 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org