After a death, it is often necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration. This is the document that gives the deceased’s personal representatives legal authority to deal with their affairs and wind up their estate.
If the deceased left a Will, it will name executors. These are the people who are responsible for obtaining a Grant of Probate. If the deceased did not leave a Will, then someone entitled to benefit from their estate under the Rules of Intestacy can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration appointing them as estate administrator.
When is probate needed?
A Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is generally needed unless an estate is small. There is no fixed amount which constitutes a small estate, but assets of up to £5,000 can be distributed without a grant. Banks have their own limits above which they will require sight of a grant and this varies widely from £5,000 to £50,000. If the deceased owned a property, then a grant will be required in order to sell it.
Applying for probate
Before an application is made, it will be necessary to identify the assets in the estate and calculate and pay the Inheritance Tax. This is not always straightforward. For example, if the deceased made cash gifts during the last seven years of their life, Inheritance Tax will be payable on the value of these on a sliding scale, depending on how long ago they were made. If you are unsure as to the amount payable, it is advisable to seek legal advice as a personal representative may have to pay any penalty for underpayment of tax themselves.
Once Inheritance Tax has been calculated and paid, application can be made to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate. The original Will should be sent with a certified copy of the death certificate and application form PA1P as well as the Probate Registry fee, currently £215 for estates worth over £5,000. The relevant Inland Revenue form in respect of Inheritance Tax should also be included together with the Inland Revenue’s receipt for payment of the Inheritance Tax.
Where Letters of Administration are being applied for, the process is similar, but without a Will being sent and using application form PA1A.
Using the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
The application for the grant is only a small part of the work that is required after a death. Once the grant has been received, the executor or administrator will need to collect in the deceased’s assets. This could include clearing and selling any property they held and encashing investments. Detailed estate accounts will need to be prepared before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.
Care should be taken during the estate administration as executors and administrators can be held personally liable for any mistakes that result in a loss to the estate.
If you would like to speak to one of our expert estate planners, ring us on 01634 353 658 or email us at [email protected]