What Is the Process to Obtain Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?

Process to Obtain Grant of Probate

When someone dies, whether there is a will or not, the executor of the will or a family member will need to apply to the court for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. This gives them the authority to handle the deceased’s estate including all the necessary financial and property aspects.

However, sometimes probate must be applied for, in some cases it is not needed and in other circumstances, Letters of Administration will be required instead of probate. So, what is the process to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?

When is probate necessary?

First, let’s just clarify when probate is necessary. The general rule is that if the value of the deceased’s estate is more than £5,000, Grant of Probate is required.

If there is a will, it is the appointed executor’s role to apply for probate but if there is no will or executor, the next of kin or a family member representing the deceased will need to apply for Letters of Administration. This grants them the authority to handle the deceased’s estate and they will be called the administrator.

Other circumstances where Letters of Administration are required are:

● One person has been left the entire estate;
● There are no executors named in the will;
● The named executors are not prepared to accept the role.

Only an executor of the estate can apply for a Grant of Probate. If there is no executor, the next of kin or a close relative must apply for Letters of Administration in order to manage the deceased’s estate.

When is probate not necessary?

Let’s quickly explain when you don’t need to apply for a Grant of Probate. As a rule, if the majority of the deceased’s estate is jointly owned with their living spouse or civil partner, such as joint bank accounts or a mortgage, they may not need to apply for Grant of Probate. Other circumstances when probate is not necessary are:

● The estate is valued at less than £10,000 and there are no shares or land as part of the estate. If the estate is particularly small and there is only a token amount in a bank account, the bank has the discretion as to whether they need Grant of Probate to release the funds.
● If any money, i.e. bank accounts, or property are owned jointly with a living spouse or civil partner.

The process to obtain Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration

Once the death has been registered (which must be within five days), applications for Grant of Probate must be submitted to the court within six months. This is not because there is a time limit on applying for probate; it is because there is a time limit on paying HMRC any Inheritance Tax that may be due. In practice, reporting the estate’s value to HMRC and applying for probate is usually done at the same time, as both are needed to finalise the deceased’s estate.

Whether there is a will or not, the process to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is similar. The first step is to itemise the deceased’s estate and calculate its value. This will include any money in their bank or building society accounts, the value of the deceased’s belongings and any property held in the deceased’s name (even if it is in joint names, the value still needs to be ascertained). You will need to consider:

● Bank accounts, pension funds and any other financial assets, such as mortgage on a property, savings and life assurance policies
● Any property, whether in joint names or not, will need to be valued by a local estate agent. It is always worth getting three to four valuations.
● Any outstanding debts, such as utilities, mortgage payments, credit cards, loans or any other monies owed by the deceased
● Any gifts the deceased made that are above the official allowance within the previous seven years (not including Christmas, birthday or anniversary gifts) – they may be subject to Inheritance Tax.

In most cases, you will need a copy of the death certificate and/or will be sent
to the relevant organisations.

Applying for probate can either be done through a solicitor, particularly if a solicitor holds the deceased’s will, a family solicitor, or you can file for probate yourself online. If there is a will, you will need the following to apply for probate:

● An official copy of the death certificate (if applying online, this will be a scanned image);
● The original will;
● The application fee.

One thing to note is that you can only apply for probate online if:

● All the named executors are alive and able to make decisions; and
● The deceased spent most of their life in England and Wales.

The actual process to obtain Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is:

● Register the death to receive the death certificate
● Advise beneficiaries and notify the companies the deceased dealt with, including banks, insurance companies, mortgage providers and utility providers. Ask them to close the deceased’s account, stop any additional charges and send a final statement.
● Submit Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration forms along with HMRC’s inheritance tax forms. All of these forms can be submitted online but you will need to send some original documents, such as the will and death certificate.
● Pay inheritance tax to HMRC, if applicable. In most cases, surviving spouses/civil partners or family members will need to get a loan to cover this cost until the deceased’s estate has released the assets.
● Pay any outstanding debt, such as utility bills, credit card balances, loans or mortgages. If there aren’t sufficient funds to cover these costs, discuss with the creditor to arrange a repayment agreement.
● If there’s life insurance, now’s the time to claim as this may be enough to cover any outstanding debts and funeral costs
● Allocate the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries according to the deceased’s wishes, if they left any, otherwise equally.

If there is no will, the next of kin or a close relative of the deceased will need to apply for Letters of Administration which you can do yourself via post using the form PA1A, which is a probate application form. This can be downloaded from an online probate service or from a probate registry near you.

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable. If you are an Executor of a will and need to apply for Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.

Why Use an Estate Planning Lawyer to Make a Will?

estate-planning-lawyer

Some people don’t need to worry about making a will, such as young adults with no children or assets, just yet; however, a large proportion of people in the UK not only need to make a will but also need to consider estate planning lawyer if they have a number of valuable assets. 

Whether your estate is reasonably straightforward or more complex, such as an extensive property portfolio of assets in foreign countries, using an estate planning lawyer enables you to incorporate several aspects pertaining to your estate under one roof.

What is estate planning?

There are several aspects to estate planning, including making a will, which incorporates every aspect of planning who gets what, where, and when upon your death, as well as who makes decisions on your behalf, if required during your lifetime. Let’s look at the different aspects of estate planning:

  • Making a will – a will is a legal document that lists all your assets and their relative value, states your beneficiaries and what you have decided they will receive upon your death.
  • Powers of Attorney (POA) – a POA gives permission to a person of your choice to make certain decisions on your behalf should you be in the position of losing your mental capacity to make the decisions yourself or will be out of the country for a long period of time, or you are seriously ill for any reason. However, there are three forms of POA:
  • A continuing power of attorney gives permission regarding your property assets and financial matters.
  • A welfare power of attorney is only used when you do not have the mental capacity to make decisions on your medical care or about the treatment you receive, and even about where you live.
  • A combined power of attorney brings together the above two POAs so the person of your choice can make decisions about your financial matters as well as about welfare and health.
  • Planning business succession – if you run a business, an estate planning lawyer will help you plan the running of the business when you want to retire or upon your death, including:
    • Who takes over the business’s operations?
    • Where do the business’s profits go, i.e. equally to beneficiaries or reinvested back into the business?
    • Does your death impact a partnership agreement?
    • If you’ve appointed an executor, are they experienced in selling a business?
  • Trusts – a trust is a method to manage your finances and assets for your beneficiaries, and they can help reduce the impact of inheritance tax and capital gains tax.

What’s included in your will?

There are four forms of wills – simple, joint, living, and testamentary trust – which one you choose largely depends on your circumstances and your estate. Whilst there are also handwritten wills and oral wills, known as ‘nuncupative’ wills, let’s look at the four main types.

  • Simple will – the most common, a simple will is the choice of many people. It details your assets, who will receive them, names guardians for your children under the age of sixteen. A simple will often forms the basis of other wills.
  • Joint will – also known as mirror wills, they are signed by more than one person but culminate in separate wills for each testator. They are usually made by spouses where the executor, beneficiaries and other matters are the same. The drawback of joint wills is that should the surviving spouse’s wishes change, they can’t change the joint will.
  • Living will – this type of will isn’t to do with distributing your estate on your death but is to do with your wishes should you become incapacitated. Similar to POAs, you can specify who will make decisions on your behalf and what your wishes are should something happen to you.
  • Testamentary trust – this type of will puts certain assets into a trust, such as property, for your beneficiaries to benefit at a later date, i.e. minor children. You will need to name the trust’s trustees – the people who will manage the trust – in the testamentary trust will.

Before you carry out any estate planning or make a will, you will need to take an inventory of your assets. An estate planning lawyer will be able to help you with this task and review your assets to work out the most tax-efficient way in which to pass on your assets to your beneficiaries.

Your will needs to include:

  • Physical property, such as buildings and land.
  • Intangible property, such as stocks and shares, bonds, patents and copyrights, intellectual property and businesses owned, or any interest in a business that you have – you will need to specify who will take over your part of the business.
  • Unproductive property of value, such as jewellery, artwork, cars and furniture.
  • Cash, including money in your bank accounts and savings accounts. Don’t forget that your spouse and family will require cash to pay any outstanding debts as well as taxes upon your death.

However, there are some things that shouldn’t be included in your will, such as:

  • Property that is held as a joint tenancy, i.e. a property that is jointly owned with someone else. The reason is that the property will transfer for the other joint owner automatically.
  • Any insurance policies, trusts or other retirement plans that already state a beneficiary. However, it is possible to change your beneficiary, or beneficiaries, on any of these, as well as pensions and life assurance policies.
  • Any stocks, shares or bonds that are already set up to transfer to someone else upon your death.
  • Digital assets are also not included in wills, at the moment, so cryptocurrencies may be a difficult asset to place in a will. However, an estate planning lawyer will be able to advise you accordingly.

The more concise and accurate your estate planning and will be, the smoother the transition for your family and beneficiaries.

At Probates Online, we offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable. If you are an Executor of a will or close relative of a deceased person, and you need to apply for a Grant of Probate or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.