What is Probate?

When someone sadly passes away, you will often hear the word ‘Probate’ thrown around like you should know what it means. In reality, dealing with someone passing away and their estate is often something many people rarely have to experience (thankfully).

The word ‘Probate’ usually refers to a grant given by the court allowing someone to deal with someone’s estate. By ‘deal with the estate’, we usually mean selling property, closing bank accounts, paying debts and distributing any money or items.

So, who can apply for probate? If someone has left a Will, it will most usually be the person or people who have been named to act as executor of that will. If there is no will, the usual person to apply would be the closest living relative based on the laws of intestacy. In this case, it is worth getting some legal advice on who can or should apply and how.

Once you know who is responsible, the next stage is to find out whether a grant is needed. If the person who has died held property or had other assets of a significant amount, then an application will usually need to be made. Sometimes, no application is required, and it is worth checking with some legal advice if you think that is the case.

Next, it is important to have up to date figures for what is in the estate. This often involved writing to banks or other institutions, obtaining a valuation for any property and finding paperwork (share certificates, premium bonds, unknown accounts, etc). This can be very straightforward, or it can be a bit messy but it is important that the figures are as accurate as possible.

The reason why figures should be accurate is because the next stage involves filling in the dreaded tax forms! Inheritance tax is not payable on anything up to £325,000 as it stands, however even if nothing is payable, on an application for probate, this fact must be declared. If an estate is worth over £325,000 then things get a little more complicated and it is worth asking for some advice around whether any exemptions apply or, how much tax may be payable.

With the tax forms complete, the application can now also be completed, and everything can be sent to the Probate registry (or HMRC if tax may be payable).

All things being well, 8 – 12 weeks later (as it stands), the applicant should receive a completed grant of probate which will allow them to ‘deal with the estate’.

The final stage is usually to close accounts, sell property, sell shares and distribute the estate as stated in a will or else following rules of intestacy. It may be that property, shares or accounts are actually to be transferred into someone’s name, and this would also be possible with the grant.

Probate applications can be completed by anyone and you do not always need the assistance of a legal professional. However, at what is often a very difficult time, it often helps to have someone help who has experience and knowledge of these things.

This is a very general guide and does not cover all situations. If you have read this and would like to ask any questions at all, please feel free to get in touch and we here at Nelson Myatt Solicitors would be happy to help.

01492 588200


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