Probate Services FAQ
Dealing with the legal and financial paperwork when someone dies can seem a daunting prospect. We are here to help guide you through that process and 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 the 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: www.gov.uk/after-a-death/organisations-youneed-to-contact-and-tell-us-once
- 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 valid if still to be driven, for example, by their spouse.
- If you had Power of Attorney this ceased at death so it is not possible to continue to act in this capacity.
- Choose a professional to help deal with the estate.
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 typically takes 8-12 weeks (or longer for very complex estates or where paperwork is incomplete). We are relying on the response times of other institutions, which can often lead to delays.
- Preparing IHT forms and applying for Probate
This stage takes around 4-6 weeks but cannot be started until stage 1 is complete.
- Collecting in and distributing the assets
Probate is normally granted 4-6 weeks after the application is made. Once Probate is granted we can start to collect in and distribute the assets. This stage can often take months or even years. Sometimes HMRC will raise an enquiry into the valuations and it is necessary to wait for this to be resolved before some or all of the assets can be distributed. If there is a trust in the Will, assets will be transferred to the trustees as this point. Partial distributions can also be made, as the administration progresses.
How long will it take?
We are here to get things done as quickly as possible and provide you with a realistic timeline for completion. We will keep you fully updated at regular intervals so you know how things are progressing.
A large amount of unsorted paperwork and a lack of clarity about exactly what the deceased owned can take time and effort to resolve.
In practice, many estates can obtain the Grant of Probate within six months if there are no unexpected matters.
How much inheritance tax (IHT) is due and when is it payable?
If the approximate value of the estate 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 seven years, by specific reliefs for business or agricultural property, by any exemptions available to the deceased or nil rate bands transferred from a deceased spouse.
IHT 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 under the Direct Payment Scheme. If there are no funds immediately available in the Estate to settle the IHT liability, our experienced Banking and Finance Team can usually arrange a short term loan secured on the assets.