Probate - What to do Following a Death

The weeks and months following a bereavement can be exceptionally difficult. Coming to terms with the loss may be the main focus following the death of a loved one, but there are also practical matters that must be considered and may require action by the Executor of the estate.

Probate is the process of dealing with the property, finances and assets of a person who has died. This can be a complex and time consuming process but is one for which Health Assured can provide assistance every step of the way. The below guide serves as an overview of the relevant steps to provide insight into what to expect.

The first thing that an Executor needs to consider is whether they need permission to collect assets and distribute the estate in accordance with either a deceased’s Will, or if there is no Will, the rules of intestacy. Probate is the process under which an individual (usually the Executor or next of kin) obtains the rights to deal with a deceased’s Will. A ‘Grant of Representation’ may be needed to provide the legal authority to administer the estate, these fall into two categories:

 

  1. Grant of Probate - When Probate has been granted through a Grant of Probate, the Executor can start to deal with the deceased person’s assets in accordance with their Will. In England and Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, this process is referred to as the ‘Grant of Probate’, whereas in Scotland it is called ‘Confirmation’.
  2. Letters of Administration - Letters of Administration is the appropriate grant if the deceased passes away without a Will. Letters of Administration are similar to the Grant of Probate and can be issued to the next of kin. They can also be issued where there is a valid Will, but the Executor who is name named in the Will is not applying for Probate.

 

The Key Stages of Probate (England and Wales)

  1. Check if there’s a Will at the earliest opportunity - this normally states who the deceased intended to act as Executor (the person that deals with the estate). If you can’t find the Will but believe one exists, there are options available to help you find a copy, so contact Health Assured to discuss this further. If there is no Will the next of kin can apply to deal with the ‘Intestate’ estate, but it is recommended that you seek additional advice from the helpline if this happens.
  2. Assess whether you need permission to access the deceased’s assets by obtaining the Grant of Representation.
  3. Apply to get a Grant of Representation - this gives you the legal right to access things like the person’s bank account.
  4. Value the estate and pay any Inheritance Tax that’s due.
  5. Collect the estate’s assets, for example money from the sale of the person’s property.
  6. Pay any debts, for example unpaid utilities bills.
  7. Distribute the estate in line with the Will or intestate rules - this means giving any property, money or possessions to the people entitled to it (‘beneficiaries’). If there are concerns regarding the Will, or it is an ‘Intestate’ estate, consider seeking advice before distributing the remaining estate.

 

If you live in England and Wales:

To obtain Probate, you will need to complete the relevant forms and send to your local Probate Office. The Application fee is £215, click here for more information.

 

If you live in Scotland:

You will need to apply for ‘Confirmation’. The confirmation fee varies depending on the size of the estate, for more information, click here.

 

If you live in Northern Ireland:

To obtain Probate, you will need to arrange an appointment with your local Probate Office. The fee is £296 for estates worth more than £10,000. There’s no fee to pay if the estate is worth less than £10,000.

 

If you live in the Republic of Ireland:

You must apply to the Probate Office.

 

Is Probate necessary?

Generally, the more complex and valuable the estate, the more likely the requirement to obtain the Grant of Representation. This is typically required in England or Wales when:

  • The deceased owned property such as a house or land.
  • The deceased held assets in a bank or other financial institution greater than the amount the institution is willing to release without a Grant of Representation.

Probate may not be necessary when:

  • The estate was held jointly with the person’s surviving spouse or civil partner, for example a joint bank account.
  • The estate doesn’t include property or land.
  • The amount held in the bank is relatively small (usually below £5,000).

Is it necessary to instruct a solicitor?

Dealing with an estate can be complicated and often solicitors are instructed to take care of the estate accordingly.  If the estate is complex or the executor does not wish to process the estate, then it is advisable to instruct a probate solicitor. To find a local solicitor, click here.

However, solicitor fees can be costly and if the executor is prepared to act, this can ultimately save hundreds of pounds. If you require any advice, guidance or support in relation to probate, or any practical guidance following the death of a loved one, contact Health Assured’s 24/7 confidential helpline on:

0844 892 2493

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