If you are seeking help, the probate team here at local Fordingbridge law firm Bonallack & Bishop, can help [following the 2017 merger with long established Fordingbridge Solicitors, Jacksons].
Live in the Ringwood or New Forest area? Need help with probate? Call our experienced team on (01425) 652110 for no strings attached FREE initial phone advice.
What is probate?
If somebody dies without leaving a Will (which is described as dying “Intestate”) or their will is considered invalid for some reason, their Estate will be distributed under what are known as the “Intestacy rules” – over which they will have absolutely no control. That’s why having a will in the first place is so important.
If they did leave a Will however, it is very important to collect as much information as possible about the Estate in order that it is valued correctly and any assets distributed in the way the deceased intended. The role of probate is to distribute your assets to those named in your will following your death
What to do when someone dies
• Find out if there is a will
The will sets out who the executors are – the people responsible for applying for probate, dealing with the assets within the estate and ensuring that they are distributed in line with the will. If the executors are not family members, make sure they are informed as soon as possible about what has happened.
If there is no will, then the intestacy rules will apply. These set out those who should deal with the estate – called administrators.
Administrators and executors have the same duties and responsibilities and are known as personal representatives (PRs)
• Register the death
This must be done with the Registrar for Births and Deaths for the sub district in which the death occurred. Phone them for an appointment; they will tell you exactly what information you need to take along to the appointment.
Your local Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages (by appointment only) is now at Ringwood Gateway, which can be found at.
0845 603 5637
• Make arrangements for the funeral.
Check the will to see if the person who had died had any special funeral wishes and make sure the funeral director is aware of these.
Obtaining probate – the process
The distribution of the assets contained in your estate will be handled by the executor named in your will, or alternatively by a court appointed administrator in the event that you were to die without a valid will and the intestacy rules apply.
• Identify assets and debts
The personal representatives [PRs] are responsible for finding out what assets the person who has died owned – e.g. bank and building society account, property, insurance policies, shares, premium bonds. Each institution will have to be informed of the death and date of death valuations obtained. Any property and contents will also need to be valued. The PRs are also responsible for obtaining details of any debts outstanding and for ensuring these are paid.
• The grant
In the process of obtaining probate, the grant is a formal document issued by the probate registry that confirms the authority of the PRs to act and deal with the administration of the estate. If there is a will, a grant of probate is obtained; if the deceased died without a will, then a grant of letters of administration is required.
A grant is not always necessary. If the value of the assets is small, there is no house, or all the investments are held in joint names, a grant may not be required.
A grant cannot be applied for until any inheritance tax (“IHT”) due has been paid and a receipt obtained for this, which must be provided to the probate registry. An IHT account giving details of the assets within the estate and the debts must be prepared together with a short oath which the PRs must swear – a quick and simple procedure.
Click here to read more about the grant of representation
• Collecting and distributing the assets
Once the grant has been obtained, it must be produced to all organisations that the deceased held investments with, enabling them to release the money. Any debts must then be paid together with expenses before what is left is distributed to those entitled under the terms of the will. Assets do not necessarily have to be sold or cashed in; shares can, for example, be transferred to those entitled if they prefer to keep them
With very simple estates, this can be relatively simple. But with even medium-size estates, they can be a significant amount of work required to correctly collect and distribute assets in the estate. in particular it often involves the following steps:
• Notifying asset holders (via the original death certificate or certified copy) and advising them that a Grant of Probate is being applied for. This will enable accounts, payment of dividends, etc., to be frozen and should be done as quickly as possible to avoid paying back overpaid sums at a later date. Then sending an original or office copy of the Grant of Probate to the asset holders who will then arrange their release
• Signing an account closure form for banks and building societies to release funds
• Supplying the solicitor of any property buyer with a certified copy of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration when the contract is sent out
• Obtaining a Probate valuation of any properties and shareholding the figure from which should be included in the Inheritance Tax forms. Various companies can do this and can provide a figure for Probate valuation purposes
• If the original share certificate cannot be produced, ensuring the completion and signing of an Indemnity Form by the Personal Representative (PR) and a Stock Transfer Form if they are to be transferred into someone’s name
• If there are significant discrepancies between the initial Probate valuation figure and the figure arrived at by the District Valuer, e.g. in the case of increased property prices, they will review the Probate valuation figure submitted in the IHT forms and may revise it, so you will have to wait to hear back on this.
• Paying any Capital Gains Tax (CGT) when the property is sold. With Tenants-in-Common, any co-owner can force a sale since the property is held on what is known as a ‘trust for sale’. If there is one surviving owner who wishes to sell they must appoint another ‘trustee’ in place of the deceased. Only the Land Registry can remove this restriction for it to become a joint tenancy
• Paying any Inheritance Tax (IHT) due prior to the release of the Grant of Probate (or Letter of Administration where there is no Will). IHT on land or buildings can be paid in annual instalments but must be settled as soon as they are sold, which will be stated by the deceased in their Will that IHT and all other liabilities are to be settled out of the Estate before property passes. They may also state that the beneficiary should settle IHT liability themselves in relation to their gift, although this is less common.
Click here to find out more about our probate solicitors can help you.
Can I look after probate myself?
Yes, that is perfectly possible. Every year, around 200,000 people deal with probate themselves – getting involved with the probate courts and tax office. DIY probate is certainly growing – partly due to the economic climate.
With very simple estates, or with people who really know what they’re doing, DIY probate is not necessarily not a problem. However an increasing number of people are getting into real trouble with probate when they tried to do it themselves. That is probably the main reason why the High Court saw a huge spike in contested probate cases in 2019 – with a massive 62% increase in claims compared with 2018.
Click here to find out more about DIY probate and the risks involved and making or defending a contested probate claim
Can my bank handle probate for me?
Among alternative to solicitors handling probate is the use of the probate legal services offered by various UK banks.
Do, however, check on their fees first. In general the probate services offered by banks are much more expensive than those provided by most solicitors.
Live in Ringwood ? Need probate advice you can rely on? Talk to us first.
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