It’s the last thing we want to think about, but the truth of the matter is, after a loved one passes away someone needs to arrange their estate, which includes money, property and belongings.
Knowing what to do around the probate process can be difficult, especially at such an emotional time. Here are some things you need to know to help make the process a little easier.
If a person has left a Will, they will have named an executor. This is the individual authorised to deal with the deceased’s money, property and possessions when they die. The executor deals with any paperwork, pays any bills and distributes the assets by sorting out who is given any money, property or other belongings.
The executor can be a legal representative, such as a solicitor, or it can be somebody without any legal experience at all. If you’re doing it yourself, here’s what you need to know.
- Track down the Will
Immediately after the death, you’ll need to track down the most recent copy of the Will. This could be found in the deceased’s home, or their solicitor may have a copy. If you can’t find it, ask friends or relatives if they have any idea where it could be, or check to see if they used their bank to arrange one.
- Gather assets
The executor will need to sift through the deceased’s paperwork to identify any assets they own, such as money, property, investments, and vehicles, as well as outstanding debts. Bank statements can offer a helpful clue in tracking down who they might owe money to.
- Apply for probate
You’ll be required to sign some probate forms and pay Inheritance Tax (see below) before it can be granted. You also need to swear an oath. You can do this at what’s known as a Commissioner of Oaths (potentially a solicitor’s office), or at your local probate office.
As soon as this has been settled, you’ll need to send a copy to each of the organisations the deceased has assets with. They will then unfreeze any locked accounts so that you can access the funds.
- Pay Inheritance Tax
Out of all the debts which need paying, dealing with any tax implications is the first port of call. Before you can obtain probate (the document which gives you permission to distribute the estate), you’ll need to settle any Inheritance Tax due.
To calculate how much tax is owed, the estate will need to be valued for the date of death. To do this, you’ll need to submit an inheritance tax form along with supporting documents evidencing any assets.
Once the Inheritance Tax has been calculated, the executor must find the funds to cover the costs. The deceased’s bank accounts will be frozen until you are granted probate, so this might mean sourcing the funds from your own back pocket. However, you can claim the money back from the deceased’s estate once probate has been given.
- Settle outstanding debts
The next job is to settle any other debts. This might include bills, loans and mortgages. As an executor, you’re legally obliged to pay these before you’re allowed to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries – the people set to benefit from the Will.
- Distribute what’s left of the estate
The final task is to distribute the estate, which means dividing up the assets according to the deceased’s wishes. You’ll need to set up an executor’s bank account for the remaining funds to be transferred into. Finally, you can arrange payments to the relevant people.
Executing a Will can be complex, long and emotionally trying. Having legal support might help the process run smoother. Our legal experts can arrange help with any probate issues you may have. To get in touch, call us on 0808 149 6724 from your landline or 0370 218 7845 from your mobile. You can also use the request a callback button at the top of the page, or fill out our enquiry form.
Note: 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.