It’s not the nicest thing in the world, but many of us will help sort out a deceased estate at some time in our lives. We prepared this article to open a window into the world of probate, which is what lawyers call paying debts and sharing proceeds with the heirs.
Your first step is to get permission from the government to sort things out. If there is no will, you apply for letters of representation to administer the estate in accordance with law. If there is a will, then the executor under it applies for a grant of probate and carries out the wishes of the deceased.
Is That Probate in a Nutshell? Not quite …
Yes it is. Except in Scotland they call it confirmation because it affirms the right of one or several people to close out the estate. In England and Wales there are three things to do in headline terms:
1… Identify all the assets
2… Settle any bills / debts
3… Pass the rest to the heirs
Not everybody needs to follow this process exactly. If the assets are all jointly owned with a married partner, then probate is unlikely to be necessary. Ask HM Revenue and Customs to confirm.
Probate or administration approval takes between one and two months. After that, the time to completion and dissolution of the estate depends on how complex it is. There’s a small £215 fee to apply for approval. If the estate is uncomplicated you may not need a solicitor or probate specialist, as the broad process is easy to understand.
Eight Steps to a Successful Probate Process
1…Register the death at the register office within whose remit the death occurred. You will require a medical certificate plus NHS card or marriage / birth certificate
2… Look for the deceased person’s will. Do this as soon you can. If you can’t find one, the deceased died intestate and their closest relatives will share the proceeds
3… Complete the paperwork for the probate / administration and inheritance tax. We plan to go into more detail about this a little later as it is quite complex
4… Tell everybody you can think about the death, especially government bodies, financial providers, and utility companies. You must arrange to settle accounts
5… Pay all money the deceased estate owes. Settle secured debt first, followed by funeral fees, then other debt. You may have to sell assets to finance this
6… Claim all life cover due, including that related to mortgage / loan insurance. As long as you know the provider, they should be able to track them down
7… Value the estate. You may need professional advice from a provider such as us, as you will be sharing the value between the heirs and you must be fair
8…Distribute the remainder of the estate between those heirs. If there is no will, follow the rules of intestacy. This means married partners and natural children come first
If you decide to appoint a probate adviser to help you instead, give us a call on 0800 567 7769, or 0208 640 00 44 if using mobile. You can also write to firstname.lastname@example.org whichever suits you best.