When somebody passes away the process of gathering together their assets, such as property and investments, distributing them fairly and paying inheritance tax is known as probate. Not every estate requires probate, and you do not necessarily need to use a costly probate expert if it does. Here we look a little closer at what the process involves.
There are some situations when you can avoid probate altogether. If assets are jointly owned by a surviving spouse or civil partner, they will automatically go to them.
Also, estates with a small value often do not need to go through the process. Most financial institutions have a minimum value below which they do not need to see a grant of probate before releasing funds to those in the will or next of kin.
You’ll need to speak to the relevant firms to find out what that is, but it can range from £5,000 to £50,000. For larger estates and those involving a property you will usually need to go through probate.
Deciding whether to use a probate specialist
For straightforward estates you may not need the help of a probate specialist or solicitor, as long as you are confident about carrying out administrative tasks yourself. However for more complex estates, or if you would simply like someone else to take care of matters at a difficult time, there are lots of specialists who can help you.
Costs vary significantly, so it’s worth getting quotes from a few providers before deciding which way to go. There are three main options, the first is a fixed fee which the specialist will quote you before they carry out the work so you know exactly what the cost will be. You can use a probate brokerage to find the best value specialist.
The next is a solicitor that charges by the hour or a percentage of the value of the estate. These usually come with a higher cost, but may be worthwhile in the long run if the estate is complex. For example, if the will is disputed or there are foreign assets involved.
Finally, most banks offer a probate service, but this is often far more expensive than a solicitor.
Doing it yourself
If you decide to do it yourself, there are several steps you’ll need to take.
- Once you have registered the death, you can apply for probate. This costs £215 for estates worth more than £5,000. If there is a will and you know who the executors you will get a grant of probate, if there is no will you’ll receive a grant for letters of administration.
- At the same time as applying for probate, complete an inheritance tax (IHT) form. You’ll need to do this whether the value of the estate is above or below the IHT threshold. This will involve estimating the value of the estate after any debts have been taken off.
- Notify all the organisations the person had a relationship with, that they have died. This is likely to include banks, building societies, mortgage providers, utility companies and government bodies. Hopefully they will have kept a list of their accounts. If not, Tell Us Once allows you to notify all government bodies at the same time, while the Death Notification Service does the same for financial institutions. Also double check there are no life insurance policies you can claim.
- If you are an executor or administrator of the estate, pay off any debts or inheritance tax that is owed.
- Decide what to do with inherited property. This can be tricky if, for example, siblings have conflicting wishes, but hopefully you’ll be able to come to an agreement. If you want to sell a home that has been passed on to you quickly, we can do it in as little as seven days.
- Distribute funds among the beneficiaries, either as stipulated in the will or fairly between immediate next of kin.
The length of time it takes to complete the process depends on the complexity of the estate, whether there is a house to sell and whether the will is disputed. A grant of probate takes between four and eight weeks to arrive, from then it depends on how quickly any issues can be resolved.
Working with us
We have many years of experience working with people going through difficult and unsettling circumstances such as inheritance.
We aim to make the process as hassle free for you as possible. Not only do we instruct and pay for solicitors, we buy your property using our own cash funds which means you do not have to pay estate agent commission. What’s more, there are no viewings to conduct and you are not part of an unpredictable chain that so often falls through.
That means you can rely on the completion date we give you, so you know exactly when funds will be in your account and exactly how much they will be. If you’d like to chat about how we can help you after inheriting a property, please get in touch.