When someone dies, probate has to be obtained so that the financial affairs of the deceased person’s estate can be sorted out and any inheritances can be distributed. Probate gives the executor of a will the legal authority to deal with bodies like banks, utility companies and HMRC in administering the finances of the estate.
A properly executed will should name at least one executor who is responsible for applying for probate. To do that, you need to make a written application to the local Probate Registry office in England and Wales, using a form which you can download from the official gov.uk website.
If there is no will or no named executor, someone, usually a close relative, must become the administrator and they then have the responsibility for applying for probate. Whether you are an administrator or an executor you can of course appoint a solicitor to deal with the paper work on your behalf. Although it is perfectly possible for an individual to apply for probate the shock of bereavement means that many people prefer to use a solicitor. In the case of a larger or complex estate, using a solicitor will usually be the best option.
The probate application form requires the personal details of the person who has died, the numbers of surviving and deceased relatives, the personal details of the executor and the financial figures that you have given to HMRC.
The executor or administrator must inform HMRC of the financial details of the estate. You will need to calculate the worth of the estate by adding up all the assets including property, personal possessions such as jewellery or antiques and any cash in bank or building society accounts. HMRC advise that a professional valuation should be obtained for any single item with a value of more that £500. Once you have the total of the assets, you then subtract any debts the estate has to pay to give you the net worth. You are also allowed to subtract funeral costs.
Once the Probate Registry office has received your completed application, you will be invited to appear at the office in person so that they can check all the facts on the form. You will have to swear an oath that all the facts included in the form are accurate to the best of your knowledge.
After your interview, the Probate Registry will send you a Grant of Representation, the legal document you need as an executor or administrator to approach all the various bodies such as banks, utility companies and others that you need to deal with to settle all the affairs of the deceased person’s estate. The Grant of Representation also allows you to distribute any legacies included in the will.