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If you have been appointed as the executor of a will, it is your responsibility to not only ensure that the estate is administered in accordance with the terms of the will, but that all relevant institutions are notified and that all appropriate taxes and liabilities are paid.
The team at JMW is highly experienced in this area of law and we understand how stressful and upsetting it is to lose a loved one. We are therefore on hand to take the weight off your shoulders. We can take care of as much or as little as you want of the probate process, from handling all the administration to drafting application documents on your behalf.
The Probate Process
If you plan on handling all or the majority of the probate process yourself, you will need to:
- Register the death
- Arrange funding for the funeral
- Obtain and implement the will
- Seek legal advice regarding intestacy rules (if no will has been made)
- Apply for a Grant of Representation (not always applicable)
- Administer the estate and make necessary Inheritance Tax arrangements
To find out more about probate and trust disputes, click here.
Registering the Death
Within five days, you must register the death with the Registrar for Births and Deaths in the area in which the death took place. You will need to make an appointment at the relevant Register Office and it is the closest living relative or person present at the death who should register the death.
In order to register the death you must first obtain the medical death certificate from the certifying doctor (either from the hospital or local GP surgery) and take this together with the following information to your appointment:
- The deceased's full name at time of death
- Details of any previously used name or maiden name
- The deceased's date and place of birth
- The deceased's last address
- The deceased's occupation
- The full name, date of birth and occupation of the deceased's surviving spouse or civil partner
Once the death has been registered, the Registrar shall issue a death certificate and provide you with a form that authorises you to arrange the funeral. There will be a small fee for any additional death certificates that you require.
Arranging Funding for the Funeral
Ensure that you first check the will (if there is one) for any funeral wishes or details of any funeral plans that may have been made. You will then need to take the relevant form as provided by the Registrar to a funeral director who shall then arrange the funeral with you.
If the deceased held a bank/building society account, you can take the funeral invoice together with the death certificate to a branch of the bank/building society; the branch shall then issue a cheque from the deceased's account made payable to the funeral director.
Obtaining and Implementing the Will
If the deceased made a will, you will need to obtain it from its place of storage. This may be within the deceased's paperwork at home, or it is likely to be with their solicitor or with their bank. The will appoints the Executors of the estate and it is these people who are responsible for administering the estate in accordance with the terms of the will.
If no will can be found after all reasonable searches have been made, the deceased is considered to have died Intestate. This means that the Intestacy Rules shall apply to the estate and as such the law shall govern who is entitled to administer the estate and who is entitled to benefit from the estate. As the Intestacy Rules are complex you may wish to seek legal advice at this point.
Applying for a Grant of Representation
The Grant of Representation is the legal documentation that is issued by the Probate Registry that authorises a person(s) to administer an estate. The Grant of Representation is know as a 'Grant of Probate' if there is a will, or a 'Grant of Letters of Administration' if there is no will.
Whether or not a Grant of Representation is required on an estate will depend on the assets of the estate. Typically, if there are assets in excess of £5,000 or if there is a property, then a Grant of Representation will be required.
To apply for a Grant of Representation, you will need to obtain full and accurate details of all the assets and liabilities of the estate as at the date of death. This information is then inserted on to the relevant tax return form. The tax return together with the relevant Oath (that must be sworn) forms the application for the Grant of Representation. If you are applying for the Grant of Representation in a personal capacity, the Probate Registry may require you to attend an interview. Alternatively, a probate solicitor can attend to all the paperwork on your behalf.
How Do I Administer an Estate?What Will I Need to Claim the Transferable Nil Rate Band?
In order to claim the transferable nil rate band, you will need the death certificate, the will, the Grant of Representation and details of the assets of estate of the first spouse / civil partner to die. In addition you will need to provide a copy of the marriage certificate.What Is the 'Transferable Nil Rate Band'?
Since October 2007, it has been possible to 'transfer' the nil rate band between spouses / civil partners, provided that certain circumstances are met.
Example: If the first spouse / civil partner to die leaves their entire estate to their surviving spouse / civil partner no inheritance tax shall be payable under the relevant exemption. As the nil rate band of the first spouse / civil partner remains unused, on the death of the second spouse / civil partner the Executors of the estate can claim both the second spouse's / civil partner's individual nil rate band plus the unused nil rate band of the first spouse / civil partner. This effectively raises the tax-free element to £650,000.How Do I Know If the Estate Is Liable to Inheritance Tax?
The 'nil rate band' (the value of an estate that passes free of Inheritance Tax) stands at £325,000. Any value above this figure is taxed at 40%. However, there are numerous tax reliefs and exemptions that may apply to the estate that may reduce the value of the estate for Inheritance Tax purposes. Please note, if Inheritance Tax is payable on an estate, there is a time limit in which you are required to pay the Inheritance Tax that, if not met, HMRC shall charge interest and may apply a penalty charge.
Why Choose JMW?
This area of law can be particularly complicated and stressful, so you need to make sure you have experienced and professional solicitors to guide you through the process, making sure everything is carried out as it should be.
At JMW, we have helped many people with many different aspects of probate, each with their own specific circumstances and needs. We understand this area of law and will give you the very best chance of getting the outcome you are after.