The first step in the probate process is to identify whether the deceased person wrote a will and if so, to locate it. If there is a will, then responsibility must be taken by the person(s) referred to as Executors to ensure its contents are delivered. In the absence of a will, it is usually the nearest living relative who will be appointed as their Representative who administers the estate.
Probate is only required if the estate is over a certain value. When you notify banks and building societies that the person has died, they will inform you if they require probate before releasing funds to you. Usually, probate will be required if the person who died owned property, but this will depend on how the property was owned.
To obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration (in England and Wales), you will need to gather full information about the estate – or as accurate as you can be – and complete the necessary forms – PA1P (when there is a Will) or PA1A (when there is no Will). If the estate is large enough that inheritance tax will be payable (for estates valued at more than £325,000), this must be done within a set period of time. In most cases, you must pay Inheritance Tax within six months of the end of the month in which the deceased died. After this period, interest and penalties will be charged on the amount outstanding.
Once the Grant has been obtained, assets can be gathered from banks and building societies. All debts must be paid before any beneficiaries named in the will can receive their gifts.
Where there are potentially lots of creditors, Statutory Notices should be placed to protect the Administrators of an estate from any claimants that otherwise may have been overlooked. Although Statutory Notices are not a legal requirement, by placing them, the Executor or Administrator will be protected from any personal liability if a creditor comes forward and makes a future claim after an estate has been distributed.
It is possible to carry out probate yourself. If the estate is fairly small, with most of the funds consolidated already by someone who held Power of Attorney for the person who died, and there is no property held in the name of the deceased, this may be something you wish to consider. However, even with a small and simple estate, many people find the amount of time required and the necessary form-filling somewhat daunting. Probate will usually take several months to complete, while larger and more complex estates can take up to or more than a year before everything is completed. Using a solicitor to do this work on your behalf can seem a huge relief.
Get help finding probate solicitors. Here at the National Bereavement Service, we can recommend reputable solicitors who are not only competitively priced but who are compassionate, professional and happy to act on your behalf during your bereavement. Our legal partners maintain high standards, delivered with great sensitivity. In addition, they have transparent fee structures so that you know how much the process will cost from the outset. They’ll explain whether they plan to charge a flat fee based on the value of the estate and the amount of work required, or whether the fees will be more unpredictable due to the complexity of the case.