Stages of Probate

When somebody passes away, it’s usually necessary to obtain the court’s permission to carry out the wishes stated in their Will. If there is no Will and the estate is over a certain size, permission is still required with a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Depending on the estate, Probate can prove complex, with several stages that need to be completed before wealth can be distributed to the beneficiaries. Due to its time consuming and often complicated nature, many people choose to seek the help of a solicitor or Kent accountant for Probate services when it comes to obtaining Probate and managing the estate.

Let’s take a look at the different stages now.

  1. Contacting asset holders

This stage is among the most time consuming of the whole process, and involves identifying and contacting all asset holders, from banks and building societies to pension providers and utilities companies. A valuation of any assets and debts must be conducted to calculate the value of the estate for tax purposes.

  1. Applying for Probate

Now comes the Probate application. This may be for a Grant of Probate (when there is a Will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (when there is no Will). The relevant inheritance tax form must also be supplied with the application, and any inheritance tax that is due must be paid by six months at the latest after the person has died.

  1. Applying for funds

Once Probate has been granted, a copy of the document must be sent to all asset holders in order for them to release funds. It is also good practice to place a statutory advertisement in the London Gazette so that creditors and/or beneficiaries can come forward to claim anything that may be owed. The claim must be made two months after the date on which the advertisement is published.

  1. Debt payment

Before the estate is distributed, the following debts must be settled:

  • Funeral and estate administration fees
  • Tax
  • Utility bills, care accounts, credit card debts etc
  • Benefit overpayments if applicable
  1. Distributing the estate

The estate can now be distributed according to the deceased’s final wishes. After this, the final accounts will be prepared. These show how money and other assets were distributed, and all beneficiaries receive a copy. The records should be maintained in a safe place, as they can be requested by HMRC for up to 20 years after the death.

Many accountants are now able to offer Probate services, and this is particularly helpful if the decedent used an accountant during their lifetime. It can make the process of contacting asset holders and completing the Probate application much easier and less time consuming.

If you are acting as an executor without professional help, and would like advice on how to value an estate and calculate inheritance tax, speak to reputable Kent tax advisors for assistance.

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