The Probate Process
Did the Deceased leave a will or die Intestate ?
The starting point is to determine whether the Deceased left a will. The original will always be required for the application to the Probate Registry. If no will can be found then the presumption in English Law is that the Deceased person died Intestate, this means that the Intestate Rules will set out who can Administer the estate and inherit under the Deceased persons assets.
Identifying all the Deceased's assets and liabilities
The Executor ( if a will exists ) or the Administrator ( if no will exists ) will then have the task of identifying all the Deceased's assets, as well as liabilities. All institutions must be notified of the Deceased's death, with confirmation of the person who is undertaking the Estate Administration. Utility companies must also be notified. Typically, the accounts will then be frozen and a new account sent to the Executor or Adminisrator. Banks will send a closure form and if the sums in the Deceased's account exceed, £15,000, the bank or financial institution will advise upon whether they require a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration to close the account and make payment to the Executor or the Administrator. If you are unsure generally as the value of someone assets an Unclaimed assets Register search can be undertaken. If the Deceased had a large number of liabilities then consideration should be given to whether a Statutory Notice should be placed, in a local newspaper and the London Gazette., if this is the case immediate legal help should be sought.
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. The relevant return depends upon a number of factors. The two most common forms are the IHT 400 ( known as a full account ) this is required if Inheritance tax is due or certain reliefs are to be claimed. All inheritance tax must be paid in full on all cash assets prior to the issue of a grant of probate while instalments maybe made on property assets. The estate accounsts must be delivered to the Inland Revenue within 6 months of the date of death otherwise interest will accrue.If No inheritance tax is due an IHT 205 will be required.
The application to the Probate Registry
Once all the assets and liabilities have been ascertained and the Inheritance tax returns completed, an application can then be made to the probate registry. The process differs depending upon whether a Solicitor is instructed or the application made in person. One of the advantages of using a Solcitor is that no interview at the Probate Registry is required and typically the Grant is issued within 7-10 days of the Solicitor loding all the papers at the probate registry. By contrast if a personal application is made then the process understanably takes longer. Once the Probate Registry have checked all the various paperwork, they will then issue a Court Sealed document knwon as the Grant of Probate ( if a will exists ) or a Grant of letters of administration ( if no will exists ) this document will state the person who is administering the estate, the date of death, and the gross and net value of the estate.
Estate distrbution to the beneficiaries
Once the Probate Registry have issued the Grant of Probate, the estate distribution can occur by the Executor or the Administrator. This will involve a set of estate accounts being drawn up showing the all the assets collected, liabilities arising and interest that may have accrued. The beneficiaries named under the will, can then be paid their legacies named in the will.