Probate Services FAQ
Dealing with the legal and financial paperwork when someone dies can seem a daunting prospect, especially as their loss can be taking a huge emotional toll as well. We are here to help guide you through that process and to help you ensure everything is done properly. You can also contact us to discuss your probate requirements with a member of our specialist Probate Team.
Someone has died, what should I do first?
- Safeguard any dependants, especially children or adults without mental capacity, and organise care for any pets or livestock
- Register the death
- Look for a copy of their will. Inform the executors of the death and check the will regarding funeral arrangements
- Inform family and friends
- If the person who died was a business owner, take urgent professional advice on continuing the business
- Register the death on Tell us Once at the Gov.uk website
- Choose the funeral directors. Arrange the funeral
- If the person owned a property check the house insurance remains valid. Call the insurers to notify them of the death and tell them if the house is now empty
- Remove any small valuables from an empty house, list and arrange to store safely elsewhere
- If there is an empty house arrange a redirect on post as soon as possible.
- If there is a car check the insurance is still valid if still to be driven, for example, by their spouse
- If you had Power of Attorney that has now ceased. Do not continue to act in this capacity
- Choose a professional to help deal with the estate, such as Baldwins
What is Probate?
Dealing with estate administration (Probate) involves three areas:
Accounts – Effectively a balance sheet at the date of death and income and expenditure accounts for the period of administration. As accountants, this is what we do every day, so you know you are in a safe pair of hands.
Tax – Calculating the Inheritance Tax (IHT) and preparing and filing the IHT Return. As qualified tax advisers we calculate tax and complete returns to HMRC as part of our core service.
Legal processes – For most estates these are important but relatively straightforward to deal with. Unlike other accountants, our team have extra qualifications to enable them to look after this for you.
How does Probate work?
Typically there are three stages to the process:
Collecting the information and preparing the detailed list of assets, liabilities and gifts – this stage can typically take 8-12weeks (or longer for very complex estates or incomplete paperwork). We are relying on the response times of other institutions, which can often take some time.
Preparing IHT forms and applying for probate – this stage can typically take 4-6 weeks but cannot be started until stage 1 is complete.
Collecting in and distributing the assets – Probate is normally granted 3-4 weeks after application. This stage can typically take 8-12 weeks or longer if there is a property or a business. If there is a trust in the will, assets will be transferred to the trustees at this point. Partial distributions can also be made.
How long will it take?
Having worked with clients on probate for many years, we understand that most people have no idea how long it will take to deal with the estate of someone who has died and it usually takes much longer than expected.
Each estate is different and varies in size and complexity. We try to set realistic expectations at the start. The time taken is not really about the total value but the number of different types of assets and debts. Ten bank accounts with about £100 in them will take more time to sort than one bank account with £100,000.
A large amount of unsorted paperwork and a lack of clarity about exactly what the deceased owned will take time and effort to resolve, compared to a far larger estate managed by professionals, or someone with power of attorney where everything is known.
In practice many estates can obtain the grant of probate within six months if there are no unexpected matters.
We’re here to get things done as fast as possible, and provide you with a realistic timeline for completion. We’ll keep you fully updated at regular intervals so you know how things are progressing.
How much inheritance tax (IHT) is due and when is it payable?
If the approximate value of the estate assets is known a good estimate of the IHT can be given at the initial meeting or shortly afterwards. This can be affected by gifts made within the last seven years, by specific reliefs for business or agricultural property and by any allowances which their spouse who died previously did not use.
The tax is due 6 months after the date of death but is payable before probate is granted (except where it relates to property when it can be paid by instalments).
Most assets are still frozen at this point but money in the deceased’s bank account can be used and sent directly to HMRC by the bank. If there is no money available in the Estate our experienced Banking and Finance Team can usually arrange a short term loan secured on the assets.