Sorting out a loved one's estate can seem a daunting process; here we explain the steps you will need to take.

There are six main stages of probate:

  • Valuing and collating the estate
  • Paying inheritance tax (if applicable)
  • Applying for grant of probate (or letters of administration if there is no Will)
  • Informing interested parties
  • Gathering the estate assets (liquidate if required) and then paying any debts from the estate
  • Distributing the estate in line with the Will or rules of intestacy if there is no Will

Below, we will take you through each of these stages in more detail.

Stages of probate in England and Wales

  1. Valuing and collating the estate

The first thing to do is to ensure that the deceased's assets, possessions and property are secured and make sure there is adequate insurance cover for them. You will also need to find the Will. It may be necessary at this point to take steps, perhaps by contacting suitable probate solicitors, to verify the document's validity. Begin to make a detailed inventory of all assets and arrange a valuation of the estate, including any houses, chattels (general possessions), stocks, shares, investments, life insurance policies, artwork and all other personal items. Collate all documentation and paperwork relating to assets, including any bank statements, passbooks for savings accounts, share and stocks certificates, property deeds, insurance policies, NSA accounts and more.

The personal representatives should register the death with all asset and liability holders; you will need to send each one a copy of the death certificate.

  1. Paying Inheritance Tax (if applicable)

The current Inheritance Tax threshold stands at £325,000, and if the estate is not subject to Inheritance Tax, it will be necessary to complete form IHT205. More information about Inheritance Tax, including the Nil Rate Band Transfers and the Residence Nil Rate Band, can be found here – Inheritance Tax.

In the event that there is not enough money to cover Inheritance Tax and probate fees, a loan may be required. In some cases, it may be possible to pay the Inheritance Tax in instalments. Inheritance Tax must be paid within 6 months of the date of death and before the Grant of Representation can be applied for.

  1. Applying for grant of probate (or letters of administration if there is no Will)

In order to obtain the Grant of Representation, it is necessary for the personal representative to swear an oath that all information they have given the Probate Registry is true to the best of their knowledge. The registry will send the oath, and the representative will need to make an appointment at a local probate office or with a commissioner for oaths (typically a solicitor) to take the oath and sign the document.

Probate fees:

  • £215 for a personal application, or £155 if a solicitor is applying on behalf of the executors
  • 50p per copy of the Grant

Completed forms need to be sent to the Probate Registry together with the original Will, the death certificate and the IHT form.

  1. Informing interested parties

Once the executors have received the Grant, usually within ten working days, copies should be sent to all asset holders together with a request to release any funds.

A statutory advertisement for creditors and other claimants should be placed in the Gazette and local press.

  1. Gathering the estate assets (liquidate if required) and then paying any debts from the estate

Another important step in the probate process is settling accounts with all asset and liability holders – you will need copies of the grant of representation to do this. Any monies due to the deceased should be collected.  Usually, it is necessary to open a bank account on behalf of the estate (the Executor's Account) and any owed money to the estate that is then collected can be paid into the account.

Income tax forms and capital gains tax forms for the period of administration should be completed. If any assets are due to be sold, this is the stage at which to sell those assets. Any debts should now be settled. There is a set order of priority for whom should be paid first:

  1. Any remaining Funeral expenses
  2. Any taxes that are due
  3. Creditors, such as loans, mortgages, and outstanding debts
  4. If there is a will, and once all creditors are paid, the beneficiaries can then receive their legacies. If there is no Will, then the estate is distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy.

The final estate accounts should be prepared.

  1. Distributing the estate in line with the Will or rules of intestacy if there is no Will

Once the residuary beneficiaries have approved the estate accounts, the executors can distribute the estate in line with the Will, or the Rules of Intestacy if there is no Will. The Executor’s bank account can now be closed. 

Lastly, be sure to keep all relevant papers for a minimum of 12 years.

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Help with the probate process

UK probate solicitors can help you process an estate with clarity, legality and, usually, without stress.  If you want expert help in the administration of an estate, whether you are an executor or a family member, Oratto's membership consists of many experienced UK probate solicitors who can help and we can help you find the solicitor who is right for your needs.

Contact Oratto today on 0845 388 3765 or contact us using our online enquiry form.