Probate is a significant responsibility for an executor of a deceased individual’s estate. It is your duty to effectively round off all the aspects. It may seem like a difficult task, but if you follow the process correctly, you can perform your duty responsibly.

Applying for Probate

Your first step towards starting your duties as an executor is to apply for the probate. In case you have no will to handle, the responsibility for handling the estate lands on the closest relative. This individual becomes the administrator. If you are the administrator, then you will apply for a different grant. You will be applying for letters of administration.

In either case, you will have to collect information about the estate and send it to the Probate Registry. You can complete this task personally or by using the services of a solicitor.

Do You Need a Grant of Probate?

It is important to decide whether you need the grant of probate or the letters of administration.  A grant of probate is not required if

  • The estate of the deceased person values at below £15,000
  • The assets were owned jointly and are automatically inherited by a spouse or civil partner

If you still have confusion about obtaining the grant, you can consult HMRC or a probate solicitor.

Determining the Estate Value

Once you have been granted the probate, your next step is to find the total value of the estate. You will have to peruse the estate paperwork to do so. The total value must be accounted for including liabilities, debts to be settled or inheritance tax payable.

You will have to inform any institutions holding the person’s assets to obtain a final statement from them. They will have to be provided with a copy of the will if available and a copy of the death certificate.

Estate value must include the following:

  • Assets (property, belongings, money in the bank including joint accounts, pensions, trusts)
  • Gifts (assets given away by the deceased individual within the 7 years before death)
  • Debts and liabilities (mortgages, loans, credit cards, unpaid bills, uncashed cheques, funeral expenses)

Depending on the complexity and size of the estate, the amount of effort and time invested in this process may vary. However, it is important to determine the correct value to find out if the estate is liable for inheritance tax (IHT).

To make your work easier, you may ask a property specialist to provide you with a written valuation for any property included in the estate. You may also consult a professional valuer to provide you with a price for items worth over £500.

Determining IHT Liability

IHT is applicable on the total value of the estate if it is more than the nil rate band, which is presently at £325,000. Exemptions may apply to the assets if they are being inherited by a spouse or a charity that is exempt from IHT.

In case the deceased is the spouse or civil partner of a person who died before them, the IHT limit can be raised to include the spouse or partners unused allowance. You can claim the unused IHT allowance on a pro-rata basis.

The Probate Forms

After the valuation, you need to fill out certain probate forms. These are sent to the Probate Registry.

The probate application (PA1) form is available for download from the HM Courts and Tribunals website. It will be filled with details about the deceased and the estate left behind. You must provide a record for all the assets and the total value. If you are located in Scotland, you will have to fill the C1 and C5 forms and send to the Sheriffs Court.

Next, you will fill in the applicable inheritance tax forms. In case IHT is not applicable, the IHT 205 form is used. If inheritance tax is due the longer IHT 400 form is required. When claiming the IHT allowance, you will fill in the IHT 217 for estates valued below the threshold or IHT 402 for estates over the threshold.

Submitting the Application and Taking Oath

The completed forms are to be sent to the Probate Registry. You will also send the original will, death certificate, and a cheque or postal order to pay your probate fee.

You will be required to take an oath to confirm that all the provided information is correct as  per your knowledge. The Probate Registry will send you the oath and instruct on how to arrange an appointment. You will take the oath at your closest possible Probate Registry or solicitor’s office.

Once all the process has been completed, it can take up to ten days for the grant to be received through the post. It can take more than ten days if there is any problem with the application.

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