How Not to get Ripped off with Probate

Evan’s Note: Considering that most of my day is involved with Estate Planning I was very interested in learning about the probate process in England, so I asked a buddy.

Grief is a very painful process, so it is important to avoid increasing the strain on your state of mind by making sense of the maze of paperwork, legalities and costs that await you when dealing with the estate of a loved one. If you feel that you are the right person to be dealing with the deceased person’s affairs, you can apply for probate…

What is probate?

It is the process by which a person may obtain the legal right to deal with a loved one’s affairs. Unfortunately, the process may take several months to complete, but unless the estate in question is large and riddled with complexities, probates can be completed for relatively little – just a few hundred pounds.

Where to begin

Your first priority must be locating the Will if there is one – only 30% of people actually die having made a Will. There are a few ways to find the Will – you can either search through paperwork filed at the home of the deceased, contact their solicitor, bank, or the Principal Registry of the Family Division at the Ministry of Justice. You may also search for the will online at websites like certainty.co.uk, although a fee of £40 will be incurred for using this service.

The Will should name the executor(s) whose duty it will be to collect the assets of the deceased, pay debts, and in most cases, distribute the next of kin with letters of administration to begin the probate process. The probate process is not always necessary. In cases where the estate in question is worth less than £5000, it is possible that the bank may only require a death certificate in order to attribute the right deal with your loved one’s affairs to you.

Do I need a solicitor?

You have no obligation to use the probate services of the solicitor or bank that was named as executor and stored the Will. However, it might be advisable to use a solicitor such as Saga, as such companies offer full legal support throughout the bereavement process

If you do decide to use professional probate services, it is worth shopping around for alternatives as the probate fees charge by the executor could be considerably higher than others also providing probate services. Be particularly mindful of services that charge an hourly rate and a percentage as this can increase the cost by as much as 300%!

If I decide not to use a solicitor, what does the process involve?

There are a number of steps to follow:

Determine the value of the estate by going through the deceased bank accounts and insurance policies.

Fill in two forms – the PA1 (the probate application form) and the IHT205 (for the HMRC) regardless of whether or not inheritance tax is owed by the estate.

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