How to Apply for a Grant of Probate
It is always difficult when a loved one dies, and if you are named as the executor of their will, there are lots of practical things that you will need to manage in your time of grief. One of the most important things you will need to do as an executor is to apply for a grant of probate. A grant of probate is a legal document that gives you the authority to distribute the estate of a deceased person according to the wishes they set out in their will.
There are several ways that you can apply for probate, but it is important to make sure that your probate application is completed correctly, as mistakes in an application will slow down the process of estate administration. Delays can cause beneficiaries of the will to become impatient and lead to disputes, or prolong your grief and make it difficult to achieve closure after the death of a friend or family member.
Here, the experts at Clough and Willis Solicitors will explain how the probate process works, how to make your application, and the steps you need to take beforehand to ensure that everything unfolds as smoothly as possible. In this way, you can effectively fulfil your role as an executor and minimise any extra stress during your period of grief.
Before you apply
Only executors named in the will of the deceased can apply for a grant of probate. There may be more than one person named, but you will only need to apply for probate once.
Before you can apply for a grant of probate, you must calculate the value of the estate on the day your loved one died. You will need to include an estimated value when you apply for a grant of probate, and this information will then be shared with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). For estates worth more than £325,000 and where Inheritance Tax is due, it is likely that you will need to pay Inheritance Tax to HMRC before you distribute the estate according to the requirements expressed in the will. If you estimate that the estate is worth around £325,000, you will need to provide a more accurate estimate of its value in order to calculate the Inheritance Tax liability. If you expect to owe tax on the estate, you will also need to submit an Inheritance Tax form to HMRC.
The value of an estate includes all of the deceased person's assets, minus any debts that need to be paid. Without a grant of probate, you will be unable to begin the process of estate administration, but you can find out the value of certain assets (such as the deceased's bank accounts) by sending a letter and a copy of the death certificate to the relevant institution. Banks, building societies and utility companies will all accept a copy of the death certificate, although you may not be allowed to access any assets directly until you are granted probate. If the deceased's assets include property, there are several approaches you can take to value this. You can find more information in our guide to managing the financial affairs of a deceased person
Making a probate application
In most cases you can apply online for probate and the process currently takes upto 16 weeks once the Probate Registry receive the documents. However, some applications need to be submitted on paper and it can take upto 6 months from the date the application is submitted. With either type of application if there are errors or more information is requested, this will cause considerable delays.
Applying online is relatively straightforward, but there is still a risk that complications can arise. It is often best to work with an experienced probate solicitor who can manage the process on your behalf
Once probate is granted you can then begin to gather the deceased’s assets (including selling any property), ensure all debts are paid and the distribute the estate. This is often relatively simple, although complications can arise - for example, if a beneficiary is difficult to track down, or if someone decides to dispute the will. For these reasons, it is useful to work with a probate solicitor who can offer advice and manage the process on your behalf, as this can ensure that all of the legal requirements are met and that the estate administration unfolds smoothly.
The team at Clough & Willis has significant experience in handling the legal responsibilities of the probate process, from making applications to representing parties in will disputes. We can take the pressure off an executor by handling duties on their behalf, and create the time and space they need to grieve. If you have a question about applying for probate or need probate services, contact us today. Call us on 0800 083 0815, or fill in our online enquiry form to request a call back.