The Probate process explained

Finding yourself as the Executor of a loved one’s Estate can be a daunting prospect, at what is already a stressful and emotional time.

Where do I start? What is expected of me? Do I need a Solicitor?

 Jane Healey, a Partner in the Wills, Trusts & Probate Department of our central Frome office briefly explains the Probate process, and how FSM Solicitors can help.

What is Probate?

People often use the term “Probate” (or “Estate Administration” or “Grant of Representation”) to describe the process of administering the Estate of a person who has died. This includes identifying the value of their assets and liabilities as at their date of death, gathering in all of the assets, selling property, discharging the liabilities, debts and taxes; then finally distributing the balance of the Estate between the beneficiaries.

A Grant of Probate is an Order issued by the Court, and it confirms the authority given in the Will to the  Executors, so they can distribute deceased person’s Estate in accordance with their wishes. A Grant of Probate may not be required if the estate is small, or if the property or assets are held in joint names and will be passed to the joint owner via the right of survivorship.

 What is the Executor’s role?

The role of an Executor is to adhere to the terms of the Will, including obtaining a Grant of Probate if necessary, and distribute the assets to beneficiaries and ensure all liabilities and taxes are paid. The Executor named in the Will may be a friend or relative of the deceased. A Solicitor can also be instructed to act as an Executor.

What should I do first?

Following a death, there is no immediate urgency to apply for a Grant of Probate. The first steps required are to register the death, ensure that the house and contents are secure, that the home insurance providers are aware that the person has died, and they will continue to provide cover. They should still continue to provide insurance for the property, but you must check whether they will continue to insure the deceased’s personal possessions if they are of significant value.

You must also locate the Will and make the funeral arrangements.

 Who will pay for the funeral or Inheritance Tax?

If the deceased had a bank account which holds sufficient funds, then the bank will usually release monies before the Grant of Probate is issued for the payment of the funeral bill and any Inheritance Tax. There are procedures for requesting the bank to release monies to pay Inheritance Tax. We can advise you on this.

What happens if there is no Will?

If there is no Will, then the Estate will be distributed amongst the deceased’s relatives according to the Intestacy Rules. As the deceased person will not have appointed an Executor, the Estate must be dealt with by an Administrator – most often it is a relative entitled under the Intestacy. A friend or relative expecting to inherit may not be entitled under the Intestacy Rules. If anyone is likely to challenge the distribution of the deceased’s Estate, then it is sensible to involve a Solicitor at the outset.

How long will it all take and what costs are involved?

The timescale of winding up an Estate can vary hugely. In the most straightforward cases it can all be finalised within a few months. However, it is not uncommon for it to take a year, or longer in some cases. There are various costs involved, including paying for a funeral, Court fees associated with obtaining a Grant of Probate, legal fees and liabilities such as Inheritance Tax etc.

Administering a loved one’s estate can be an overwhelming task, often during an emotional and difficult time. Our expert team is here to help you with any issues you may have, offering practical legal advice and support along the way. Please contact Partner and Solicitor Jane Healey today on 01373 485485 or janehealey@fsmsolicitors.co.uk or visit fsmsolicitors.co.uk for more information.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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