How do I apply for probate?Smart Will
How do I apply for probate?
When someone passes on it can be a really difficult time for those left behind. Not only do you need to cope with the distress of losing someone but there is also the matter of organising their affairs.
One of the main things to do after a bereavement is to handle probate and in this guide, we’ll help you through the process.
What is probate?
Probate (called confirmation in Scotland) is the formal process of administering the distribution of a person’s estate.
To do this you must apply for the legal right to carry out probate and this is known as a ‘grant of representation’.
The process is different depending upon whether the person concerned has left a Will or if they have died without making a Will (intestate)
If the deceased died intestate then their family or friends will need to apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’.
This allows them to decide what should happen to the person’s assets and to pay off any debts that they may have had.
When someone dies with a Will then they will have appointed an executor as part of the Will making process and in this case, it is they who will need to apply for a grant of representation.
This is done by formally requesting a ‘grant of probate’ which then allows them to administer the estate according to the instructions set out in the Will.
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Will everybody have to use probate?
Surprisingly not every estate has to go through the formal probate procedure.
Small estates, usually with a value of less than £5,000 won’t need to go through probate.
We say ‘usually’ because one of the things that determine whether you need a grant of probate is the policy of the banks and financial institutions of the deceased.
Many require proof of a grant of probate to allow an executor to administer the bank accounts of the estate but the level at which then need this proof is different for every institution.
If a person has an estate where all the assets are held jointly with another person (usually their partner) then all of the assets will pass automatically to the surviving person and in this case, probate will not be required.
Does the grant of probate take very long?
Generally speaking, it will take around four to eight weeks to obtain a grant of probate.
A simple estate where a Will exists and with a correctly completed application will probably take between three to five weeks.
However, for more complex estates or where there isn’t a Will and a grant of letters of administration are required the process will take longer.
Once probate has been granted then to carry out the full process of probate will, of course, take much longer and again will depend upon the complexity of the estate.
Can I carry out probate myself?
The answer is yes.
If you have been appointed as an executor or if you are a close family member who has taken on the task then there’s no reason why you can’t apply for a grant of probate and administer the deceased estate on your own.
The process can be complex, and you should be prepared to carry out several administrative tasks including, paying inheritance tax, capital gains tax, paying off any debts, distributing the estate to beneficiaries, dealing with estate agents etc.
You can resign as an executor and pass the role onto a professional if needed.
Step by step guide to probate
At the start of the process, probate can seem a daunting task but the good news is that it can be relatively straightforward as long as you go through a series of steps in the correct order.
Step 1 – Register the death
This needs to be done within 5 days in England, Wales and NI or eight in Scotland and it is usually done by a relative.
If you a relative is not able to do this then it can be done by someone who was there at the time of death, a hospital or hospice administrator or the person who will be organising the funeral arrangements.
If you do this at the local register office to where the death happened you will be given the documents on the day but bear in mind that you may need to make an appointment depending upon your local arrangements.
Before you go make sure you have the medical certificate of death, the person’s birth certificate, marriage or civil partnership certificate.
You will also need a change of name certificate if there is one and if they are available the person’s driving licence, NHS number and any other documents that prove the name and address of the person such as utility bills of passport.
When you register you’ll get a certificate for burial or cremation and a certificate of registration of death.
At this point, we’d strongly advise getting more copies of the death certificate as they are often cheaper at this point and you are better top have them than waste time trying to get copies later.
There are two useful services that can prove invaluable at this point.
The first is the government’s ‘tell us once’ service which allows you to report the passing of the person to local authorities, DHSS and the taxman. Unfortunately, this isn’t available for every local authority so you will need to check here. Tell us once
The second service is run by the banks’ trade association which again allows you to report the death which will then be notified to the person’s bank. The Death Notification Service