What is Probate? PG’s Easy Guide
In the midst of bereavement, it can be hard to sort out a loved one’s financial affairs. So what is probate? Here we will try to point you in the right direction and help, providing a helpful and sympathetic approach to dealing with all of the necessary paperwork. The probate process can be lengthy, complex and time consuming, averaging nine months to one year, which of course increases worry for many people who are trying to deal with their own grief, whilst coming to terms with a sudden change of circumstances and trying to get used to life with the absence of a loved one.
Following a death a doctor will usually issue the required ‘death certificate’. This is an important document that will help get the probate process moving, so keep it safe and don’t lose it.
So what is probate?
It is the process of dealing with the estate of someone who has passed away, which generally means clearing their debts and distributing their assets in accordance with their wishes previously written into a will. In legal language it means ‘the process of dealing with someone’s estate after they die.’
If you’re responsible (or one of several chosen executors) for sorting out someone’s will, there are specific rules that set out how you need to notify the authorities and distribute the estate.
Does everyone need to use probate?
In a nutshell – no. A few deceased estates don’t need to go through this process. If the estate consists only of jointly-owned property and/or money which passes to a spouse or civil partner when someone dies, probate will not normally be needed.
How much does probate cost?
There’s an upfront cost for probate, whether you recruit the help of a probate specialist or you decide to go it alone. Current application fees for probate are £155.00 if you apply through a solicitor, and £215.00 if you’re taking the DIY route. For estates worth less than £5,000 there is no charge. The flat fee structure for probate fees is set to be replaced by a tiered scale based on the deceased estate’s value.
What is Probate? How does probate work?
Dealing with probate is a defined step-by-step process and there’s no real fast track way or short cut. The process for settling someone’s affairs will depend on whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a professional to act on your behalf. Recruiting a professional can be a good idea, and if you are dealing with a complicated estate, such as a contested will, a solicitor can be vital. If you choose to administer the will yourself you’ll need to submit the relevant applications. This is explained in more depth in the ’Grant of Probate Guide’ (called grant of confirmation in Scotland).
You will need the late person’s personal details such as national insurance number/date of birth or driving licence as a minimum, as the official agencies will require this information to begin processing the forms. You’ll then need to collect in the late person’s documented assets, pay any remaining liabilities and pay off any inheritance tax that might be owed.
This will involve contacting any bank accounts and building societies where the deceased held accounts, the council and HMRC to gather up their assets and liabilities. Later on, you will be distributing the net proceeds and bequeathed heirlooms to the beneficiaries. This can be quite a task and you will need to be thorough.
Tip: A very useful tool that is readily available is the ‘Tell Us Once Service’ which will enable you to contact most government departments in a single action. Most councils, DVLA, Passport Office, DWP – Department for Work and Pensions (if they were receiving benefits or a state pension), and HMRC are signed up to this time-saving service. If the person was receiving Armed Forces Compensation Scheme Payments, ‘‘Tell Us Once’ will also contact Veterans UK. Here is the link to this service: