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Here at Wall James Chappell we understand and appreciate the difficulty most people have in dealing with a loved one’s estate following a bereavement. One of the main questions we are asked at an initial meeting with family members is “Can I obtain Probate myself?” to which the answer is, of course, yes. The aim of this article is to go through the basics of Probate step by step so our Clients have a better understanding of what is involved and whether they can tackle obtaining Probate themselves.
The first step in the Probate process is to ascertain whether Probate is in fact required. In order to do this you firstly must establish exactly what the estate is made up of, both assets and liabilities. To do this it is common practice for letters to be sent out to each asset holder along with either an original or copy Death Certificate. The institutions will then provide you with valuations as at the date of death and also advise whether they would be happy to release any funds held without sight of a Grant of Probate.
Deemed assets of the estate are, but are not limited to, bank and building society accounts, National Savings and Investment holdings, Stocks and Shares, Bonds, ISA accounts, Private Pensions, Life Assurance policies, the deceased’s property, any personal possessions (to include vehicles, private number plates, antiques, jewellery) and any other monies which may be due to the deceased e.g. arrears of State Pension or any other state benefits. The obvious liabilities of the estate are the funeral bill, wake costs, household utility bills and any overpayment of state benefits.
A good indicator as to whether Probate will be required is whether the deceased owned a property, either in their sole name or jointly. As a rule of thumb, if a property is owned in the deceased’s sole name then Probate will be required as the property cannot be sold or transferred into the name of a beneficiary without the Grant of Probate. If a property is owned jointly as Joint Tenants then it will pass by the principle of survivorship without the need for Probate, however if it is held as Tenants in Common then Probate will be required.
The second step in the process, once you have established whether Probate is required to encash/sell/transfer the assets, you will need to make an application to the District Probate Registry. The application consists of an Oath for Executors (where there is a valid Will), an Oath for Administrators (if the deceased left no Will and died Intestate) and an Inland Revenue account.
Depending on whether an estate is subject to Inheritance Tax (the current threshold being £325,000) will determine whether you will be required to submit a simple Inland Revenue account (an IHT205) or a more detailed Inland Revenue account (IHT400 form). Both of the forms should be completed as accurately as possible using the date of death values obtained.
Thirdly, once the forms have been prepared, you will need to make an appointment with a local Solicitor to swear the Oath. There is a fee for this service, so please ask about this when making the appointment.
Finally, when the Oath has been sworn, if the estate is taxable, before you can submit your application you must forward the IHT400 form to HM Revenue and Customs and pay any Inheritance Tax due before they will issue you with a receipt, which will need to be submitted along with your application. Otherwise, once the papers have been signed and sworn, your application will need to be forwarded to the District Probate Registry along with the relevant Court Fee.
Nevertheless, obtaining Probate can be a complex matter and we would always recommend seeking professional advice from a Solicitor or indeed instructing a Solicitor to deal with obtaining the Grant of Probate and the administration of the estate.
For more information, contact Rebecca Clark email@example.com or 01384 371622