The Probate Process

Probate process explained

But what is probate? and what are the various steps involved?

Probate is the term given to the legal process that is followed after someone has died. It is undertaken by the Executor appointed under a will, or an Administrator when there is no will.

An Overview of the probate process

STEP 1

Find out whether the Deceased left a will.

If the Deceased left a will the appointed Executor will be responsible for administering the estate. Often finding out whether a will exists is not easy, best places to look for a will, are at a solicitors, will company, bank, the building society or bank were a mortgage was or at the central probate registry which does have facilities for storing wills.

What happens if No will can be found?

If no will can be found then the presumption, that the Deceased will have died what is known as intestate, this means that the persons estate will be subject to the Intestacy Rules which can be seen by clicking here. the person responsible for administering the estate will therefore be the Administrator.

STEP 2

Identifying all the Deceased’s assets and liabilities

This work consists of identifying the assets in the estate and finding out their value as at the date of death. You may know that the deceased had bank and building society accounts and you may even have a rough idea of how much is in them but you will need to write to the banks and building societies to find exact figures.

Some banks and building societies have an agreed protocol to be followed in the event of someone dying. These protocols are intended to make it easier for executors and you may as well follow them. Currently protocols are in place with Lloyds TSB, HSBC and Nationwide BS. Premium bonds do not need to be valued for they retain their face value but it is always worth checking how many the deceased actually owned. Please also note that unlike shares premium bonds cannot be transferred and must be sold although the money can then be invested in new bonds in the name of beneficiaries.

STEP 3

Completion of all inheritance tax returns

Once all the assets and liabilities have been clarified if probate is to be obtained then an Inheritance tax return must be completed. If tax is due the form will be an IHT 400, while if no tax is payable the tax return will be IHT 205.

If tax is payable, the IHT 400 and any tax payable must be delivered to the Inland revenue, within 6 months of the date of death.

STEP 4

Applying for probate

In every case, as the Executor or Administrator a legal document called an ‘Oath’, must be signed by the Executor or Administrator. This oath is a document which the Executor/Administrator has to swear is true and which contains amongst other things the following words in the form of a solemn promise:

“that I will collect, get in and administer according to law the real and personal estate of the deceased”

If a will exists, this is signed by the Executor and the Solicitor or Probate registrar if sworn at the probate registry.

STEP 5

Estate distribution to the beneficiaries

The probate registry will issue a Grant of probate if there is a will to the Executor or a Grant of letters of administration when there is no will, to the Administrator. Once this document is issued the various assets and liabilities can then be collected and the estate distributed.

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