Probably one of the most frequently asked questions we hear at the office is:
“Will I need a grant of probate?”
Typically, if most assets that form the deceased estate were owned jointly, a grant of probate (or letters of administration if the deceased died without a Will – for ease we will just refer to the grant or letters as ‘probate’) may not be needed at all.
The reason we say ‘may not’ is because different financial organisations, such as investment companies and banks, have their own criteria with regards to how much money is in the deceased’s account before they will insist on seeing a grant of probate. For example Santander will release an account that contains £50,000 versus the Post Office who won’t release an account with over £10,000- a staggering difference! There is a £40,000 difference between what AXA and Aviva will release. Before applying for probate it is worth checking with individual organisations what their set criteria is.
If you have established that probate will be required there are different ways forward from this point.
The first, if it is a friend or family member that is named as Executor within the Will or the person or people who are applying for letters of administration carry out the tasks involved in winding up the estate themselves. This will involve tasks such as settling debts, selling property, closing bank and investment accounts and distributing assets in accordance with the Will or intestacy laws. This option is fine for simple, lower value estates.
The second is that the person or people named as executors appoint a professional to carry out the estate administration and apply for probate entirely on their behalf. This is recommended for complicated, high value estates or for those with any contentious issues.
The third is that the testator instructs a professional to carry out selected tasks only, such as calculating and paying any inheritance tax or detailing with more complex companies that held assets for the deceased. This option is often popular as most people feel comfortable arranging things such as the sale of a property themselves and don’t need help with this but are often intimidated by some of the documents that need completing.
If, when the total value of the estate is calculated, it amounts to less than £10,000 it is unlikely that probate will be required. If the estate amounts to more than this and there are many solely owned assets, an application for probate will likely need to be made.
If the deceased opted to appoint a professional at the point of making their Will then they will normally carry out all of the duties involved in settling the estate and obtaining a grant of probate with very little input from family members unless an agreement is reached. This can often feel quite invasive and leave family feeling out of the loop. It is for this reason that we advise that where practical a trusted family member or friend is appointed in the first instance with either a professional as a reserve or an instruction to seek assistance from a professional company should they feel they require it.
It is important to remember that being an executor is a very important role, and as such they are responsible for the estate and ensuing that the correct amount of Inheritance Tax is paid. An executor should be made aware that they can be held personally liable for any losses the estate may incur due to their negligence.
We offer a flexible probate administration services that suit most situations and budgets.