The death of a relative or friend can be overwhelming, and it may seem like there is so much to sort out. First4Lawyers are here to make the process as easy as possible for you. The first step in the legal process when someone dies is for you to get the legal right to be able to sort out their property, belongings and money. This is done by applying for a ‘grant of representation’, more commonly known as ‘probate’.
This can be done by you personally or by someone licenced to provide probate services, such as a solicitor. Once probate has been granted the Executor of the Will, or next of kin, can begin to sort the estate of the deceased based on the contents of the Will. If there is no Will the process is slightly different but is still determined legally as to who will benefit.
The probate process
If you are the Executor of the Will, you will normally need to apply for a grant of probate. There are some situations in which probate may not be necessary (see below) but in most cases this will need to be done.
The first step with probate is to assess the size of the estate, followed by administration of the estate.
A step-by-step of the probate process:
- See whether there is a Will and if there is, who is named as Executor. If there is no Will then it falls to the next of kin to apply for probate.
- Apply for a ‘grant of representation’ (also known as grant of probate/letters of administration with a Will/letters of administration, or, more simply, probate). This will give you the legal right to access the person’s bank account and other such things.
- At this point you would typically need to pay any Inheritance Tax that is due. This is applicable on estates worth over £325,000. For a more comprehensive explanation see our guide to Inheritance Tax.
- Any money from the estate can then be collected, such as any money that may have come from the sale of the person’s property.
- If there are any debts left by the deceased, such as unpaid bills, these will need to be settled.
- The final step of probate is usually the distribution of the estate, all being well with the Will. This means dividing up any property, money or belongings to those entitled, i.e. the beneficiaries of the Will.
When is probate not needed?
There may be some situations in which you do not need to apply for probate, if either:
- The estate was held in joint names and automatically passes to a spouse or civil partner. This also applies for joint bank accounts.
- The estate doesn’t include any property, land, or any shares.
It is best to contact the bank or financial institution to see if they require you to apply for probate, or provide proof of death (a death certificate), to obtain any money you jointly shared. It will depend on the financial institution’s individual rules regarding this.
It may also be the case that you do not need to apply for probate if the estate is worth less than £15,000, but it is best to consult with a solicitor to confirm this. First4Lawyers specialist solicitors will deal with this for you sensitively and quickly so you can begin the grieving process without additional stress.
How much does probate cost?
The price of a probate application through a solicitor is currently £155, whereas the fee for personal applications not done through a solicitor is £215. These fees are paid in addition to Inheritance Tax, and are paid at the same time you submit your application form to the Probate Registry.
Following the initial probate application you may decide you wish to carry out the rest of the process yourself. However, if you decide to go through a solicitor to make it easier and faster, fees will be charged for the solicitor’s time.
Can I arrange probate before I die?
This may seem like the ideal solution if you know you are going to die and would like to save family the stress of sorting your estate, but unfortunately the answer is no.
A grant of probate gives someone the legal right to administer the estate upon the event of someone’s death. You cannot administrate your own estate before you die as circumstances might change, and there might be differences in assets or liabilities before and after your death.
What happens if there isn’t a Will?
Known as ‘dying intestate’, a person who dies without a Will can complicate the probate process slightly. Those who benefit from the estate will be determined by laws commonly known as the Rules of Intestacy and these rules can be harsh when determining the next of kin.
For example, unmarried couples may find that they do not receive the same rights as married couples. Without a Will, probate can become a long process if there are complications with the next of kin, and the family tree may need to be studied. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that there is a Will in place, even if you do not feel that you need one. First4Lawyers can help make this process as easy as possible for you with our wills and inheritance service.
How can First4Lawyers help?
First4Lawyers’ dedicated probate solicitors are here to help. We can put you in touch with an expert who will guide you through the probate process and take some of the strain away from dealing with the person’s estate while you are grieving. Call us on 0800 567 7866, or fill in our online enquiry form.
*Note: All costs published were correct as of the date of last update. First4Lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4Lawyers’ online information alone. All details correct at time of last update.
Last updated: November 2017