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A Step by Step Guide

The Probate Process Demystified

Probate, a term that often appears daunting, is the process of putting someone's affairs in order after they've passed away.

Probate involves identifying and collecting a deceased person’s assets, settling their debts, bills, and taxes, and ensuring that the remaining assets go to their intended beneficiaries. In this guide, we'll break down the probate process into manageable steps, making it easier to understand and navigate.

Who is Responsible for Probate?

The individuals responsible for managing probate are known as "Personal Representatives." Their specific tasks depend on the assets left behind by the deceased person. If there's a Will, the responsibility falls on the Executors named in it. If there's no Will, the person is considered "intestate," and the responsibility passes to the next of kin, defined by specific rules.

Understanding Grants

A Grant is a crucial document issued by the Probate Service, granting the Personal Representative legal permission to manage the deceased person's assets. When there's a Will, it's referred to as a Grant of Probate. In cases without a Will, it's known as a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Assets Requiring a Grant

Personal Representatives need a Grant to handle specific assets, including houses, properties, land, company shares, and certain investments like Premium Bonds, Unit Trusts, and Stocks & Shares ISAs. Additionally, savings over a bank or building society's Small Balances Limit usually require a Grant.

Assets Not Requiring a Grant

Some assets, such as personal possessions, vehicles, and bank accounts below the Small Balances Limit, don't need a Grant. You can manage these assets without going through the probate process.

Applying for a Grant

If you have a solicitor, applying for a Grant can often be done online through the Probate Service's portal. You'll need to provide details of the deceased person's identity, date of death, the overall value of their assets, and your status as the Personal Representative.

When applying without a solicitor, you'll need to complete a paper application using a 22-page form (PA1A or PA1P), depending on whether there's a Will. If Inheritance Tax is applicable, it must be declared with HMRC before applying for a Grant.

How Long Does It Take?

The waiting time for an online application is approximately 16 weeks. However, if the Probate Service requires additional information, it may extend this period. Paper applications are supposed to take 16 weeks, but in practice, they often take longer, typically around six months.

What to Do While Waiting for a Grant?

During the waiting period, you should secure and inspect the deceased person's home if vacant, ensuring it remains insured. You can also arrange for the house to be cleared and valuables to be sold. If specific gifts are left in the Will, you can distribute them. You can also sell vehicles, and gather money from bank accounts below the Small Balances Limit.

After a Grant Is Issued

Once a Grant is issued, you have the legal authority to manage the deceased person's properties, shares, and larger investments and savings accounts. You must then file the Grant with relevant banks and investment companies, which will release funds after you complete a Bereavement Form.

Assets like properties can be transferred to heirs or sold, and debts and bills must be paid. Gifts specified in the Will are distributed, followed by specific monetary gifts. Finally, an Estate Account is prepared, detailing assets, bills, and distributed gifts, determining the Residuary Estate's final figure and each heir's entitlement.

Considering Professional Help

While you can handle probate yourself, especially for simpler cases, the support of a solicitor can streamline the process and alleviate the stress involved. Complex tasks, like Inheritance Tax calculations and Grant applications, are often best left to experienced professionals. Solicitors can help prevent costly errors and disputes, safeguarding the Personal Representative and the heirs.

In summary, the probate process may seem overwhelming, but with the right guidance and support, it can be managed efficiently and effectively, ensuring a smooth transition of assets to the rightful beneficiaries. Don't hesitate to seek professional assistance when needed to simplify the journey through probate.

If you need guidance with Probate, feel free to get in touch for support. You can call us on 0151 601 5399 or easily schedule a video consultation for a fuller discussion, by visiting our booking page

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