Probate is the process of managing the affairs of a loved one who has passed away. It involves working through a person’s estate, including assets, money and other such possessions. The way you divide out these assets will typically be based upon the wishes of the deceased that have been set out in a Will.
The probate process won’t typically be complex but you will find that there are certain steps that you need to take to ensure everything is completed legally. That’s why we worked together with The Probate Process, expert Probate Office Colchester, to put together a guide to the probate process. So, please read below for some extra advice and guidance on the topic.
First Things First
Initially, when a loved one dies, you will have to register the death with the local register office. A death certificate will be required for each of the deceased’s assets and this is a key step and should be completed within five days unless the death is reported to the coroner. Once the death is fully registered it will be necessary to establish whether the deceased has a valid legal Will.
How Do You Administer Probate On an Estate Without a Will?
If you have found that the deceased has not made a Will then they will have died “intestate” and their estate will have to be distributed according to the ‘rules of intestacy’.
These rules set out a specific order in which the deceased assets should be distributed, starting with their spouse or civil partner who will receive all of the deceased’s estate. Then, the order of beneficiaries is children/grandchildren, parents, siblings, grandparents and then uncles and aunts. If the deceased has no living relatives, then the estate will go to the Crown.
An important point to highlight is that the rules of intestacy do exclude unmarried partners, close friends, stepparents or stepchildren, as well as any other such potential beneficiaries who the deceased may have wished to share their estate with.
How Do You Administer Probate On an Estate With a Will?
A Will is a vital document to ensure that any assets, possessions and property are properly distributed according to an individual’s wishes after death. Without a Will, it is also impossible to leave gifts and donations to specific charities or organisations, friends or a cohabiting partner.
The Grant of Probate
In a valid Will, an executor or multiple executors will be named. However, before they start the probate process, they must apply for a Grant of Probate. This is a legal document that provides the executor(s) with the right authority to handle the administration of the deceased’s estate. The executor cannot start any tasks before having a Grant of Probate, so the key steps to involved in arranging this are:
Gathering full details of the estate of the deceased, including all assets and debts.
Completing an inheritance tax return – until this has been filed and paid, the Grant of Probate will not be made. There is a time limit on the inheritance tax part of the process and this must be handled within 6 months after the end of the month in which your loved one passed.
It’s important to note that it can take between four and eight weeks to receive a Grant of Probate once you submit your application.
Paying Off Any Debts
Once you have settled the inheritance tax and received the Grant of Probate, any debts will need to be paid off from the estate. This will include mortgages, credit cards and loans. You may find that you need professional advice on the complex rules on the order of repayment of debts. What’s more, any joint debts will pass to the surviving debtor.
Valuing the Estate
Before probate can be completed, the estate needs to be valued. So, if the deceased had life insurance, now is the time that you make a claim. Then, you’ll need to establish the total value of the estate, including any property and land, business, assets in the bank, payments due on death such as from a pension and personal items.
Distributing the estate
Once the estate has been valued and the total assets have been identified, then it can be distributed according to the Will.
When a loved one passes, it can be possible that you will be left winding up their estate. However, you don’t want to be buried in a mountain of paperwork in such a tough time. This is where expert probate advice can be helpful, such as The Probate Bureau, expert Probate Office Colchester.