Probate and what to do when someone dies

January 3, 2017

When a person dies, first thoughts are to ensure that funeral arrangements are made and there are practical issues to be dealt with, perhaps if there are pets to be cared for.

Beyond that, it is necessary for someone to obtain the legal right to deal with their property, money and possessions (which is known as their ‘estate’).  With small estates it may not be necessary to apply formally for probate, but in cases where there is property owned, then it is usually needed.

The process to be followed is:

Check if there’s a will – this is usually held by the family solicitor (although please keep in mind that solicitor firms change name – Edward Hands & Lewis Solicitors in Buxton was previously called Pricketts).  There may be a copy held within the papers of the person who has died, but there is no compulsory central register of Wills.

Executors need to be contacted – The Will names “Executors” and it is these people who have the authority to make an application to deal with the estate.

If there’s no will the next of kin can apply – Not everyone has made a Will, particularly if they are younger and have died unexpectedly.  If there is no Will this is known as the intestacy process, and there is a set order of who may apply to deal with the estate.

You can apply in person for the Grant of Probate by attending in person, but most people will use the services of a Solicitor to apply as this can then be dealt with locally. This is the document that enables the person to deal with the estate and to access bank accounts to pay for funeral costs.

Value Estate and pay any Inheritance Tax that’s due. If you are dealing with an estate that is liable to inheritance tax, the Will may sometimes be “varied” to re-write who inherits.  If you are dealing with an estate worth more than £325,000 it is always worth seeking professional advice.

Collect in the estate by selling the property (if this is to be sold) and calling in cash balances and other assets.

Pay any debts, for example, unpaid utility bills.

Distribute the estate in accordance with the Will or intestacy rules. This is the point at which the inheritance is passed to the beneficiaries.

Need help?

Executors can be personally liable if they make a mistake in dealing with an estate.  If you are named as Executor, it is acceptable to seek professional support, and the estate pays the professional fees for this.

If you would like to discuss how to deal with an estate, including more complicated issues such as tracking down missing beneficiaries or minimising tax liabilities, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The information provided in all of our blogs reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The blogs do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Please see our website terms and conditions for full details of our disclaimer. If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our lawyers who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.

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