Help with probate: what it is and what you need to know

by Tracey Heath

Published on 14th February 2018

When a loved one dies, let alone the grief of loss there is so much else to think about and do, and one of these is applying for probate. Sometimes a grant of probate is not required – it really depends on whether the deceased owned a property and the value of the estate generally.

Help with probate is a service we offer our clients, and often they are unsure of what actually happens. So here is our quick guide.

Help with probate: what is probate

 The legal definition of probate is ‘proving the will’ but very often there is no will. However the legal formalities required for winding up a deceased’s estate are very similar in both cases. Where there is no will, letters of administration are applied for instead and this process can take a lot longer and be more expensive, not to mention more stressful for those left behind.

When someone dies leaving a will, then applying for a grant of probate falls to the executors named in that will. Usually, these will be family members or friends; sometimes a professional, like a solicitor or will writer, is appointed.

It’s very important to use a probate lawyer to deal with this for you. While it is possible to do it yourself, it is a complicated legal area, with lengthy inheritance tax forms to complete (even if no inheritance tax is due to be paid) and it would be all too easy to get it wrong if you adopt the DIY approach. The executors can be held personally liable for any losses incurred to the estate and for any mistakes made. It is also very time consuming.

Help with probate: the stages of probate

 As an executor of a will, it is your responsibility to obtain a grant of probate, but this can be dealt with on your behalf by your probate lawyer. If the person who died has an estate valued at less than £15,000, or if everything has been left to a spouse or civil partner, it may not be necessary to obtain a grant of probate. Again, your lawyer will advise you.

If probate is needed, the first step is to work out the value of the estate. This will include property, belongings, and also any financial investments, or bank accounts. A professional property valuation may be necessary, and again your probate solicitor will advise you on this.

Once a figure has been arrived at, inheritance tax forms are completed and in some cases these will be sent to HMRC before the application for probate can be made  If inheritance tax is payable, then this must be paid before the application for probate is sent off.

The inheritance tax forms will be sent to the Probate Registry in support of the application, along with various other documents, but before doing this, the executors will need to swear an oath confirming that all of the information contained in the forms is correct.

Once a grant of probate has been issued, the next step is to administer the estate according to the rule of law, and the instructions in the will.

Throughout, you are likely to be faced with a barrage of unfamiliar terms, like ‘probate’ and ‘estate administration’, and have lots of questions about matters which require immediate attention.

At Optimum, our legal team are here to help, whether you need some guidance on what steps to take or whether you are looking for someone to carry out the process. To talk to the Optimum team about probate please get in touch.

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