Losing a loved one is one of life’s most stressful events. Aside from the emotional trauma, many people simply do not know what to do next from a practical perspective.
One of the first steps is to register the death. At this point, you are normally given information about the Government’s useful “Tell Us Once” service, which lets you report the death to most Government organisations, for example the Passport Office and DWP, in one go.
When a person leaves a Will, the people named as “executors” are entitled to deal with that person’s estate. This means that, if they decide to take on the role, they are responsible for collecting in any assets, paying any debts and distributing the balance in accordance with the Will.
In order to collect in assets, you need to register the death with any financial institutions that hold those accounts on behalf of the deceased. Some accounts can be dealt with easily. However, it is often at some point during this process that the executor will be asked to produce a Grant of Probate.
‘Probate’ as it is more commonly known, is essentially a certificate provided by the Probate Registry, which acts as proof that the executors have the authority to deal with the estate.
The process for obtaining Probate can be simple or complex, depending on the deceased person’s family circumstances, the extent and type of assets they held and the complexity of their Will.
There are two main stages to applying for Probate. The first is to let HM Revenue & Customs know what assets form part of the estate and whether any inheritance tax is payable.
Particular care should be taken if the deceased made substantial gifts within the seven years leading up to their death, if there are any Trusts to consider or if there is any foreign property.
The second stage of the application process is for the executor to sign a Legal Statement, which confirms that they will deal with the estate properly, in accordance with the Will. This is quite a responsibility, and the executor should take it very seriously.
To administer an estate properly the executor may need to deal with claims from disgruntled family members who have not been included in the Will. They may need to carry out bankruptcy searches against beneficiaries and place formal notices in the press for creditors, to ensure that they are not chased for funds once the estate has been wound up. If they do not do this they could be held personally liable for funds that should not have been distributed.
Once Probate has been granted, the executor can sell or transfer the assets, pay the estate debts and wind up the estate.
If you would like any advice or assistance with your application for a Grant of Probate or Estate Administration please get in touch with one of our Probate specialists within the Wills, Trusts and Probate department on 01228 552222.