Probate is the legal process that officially proves the validity of a will. This includes an inventory of the decedent’s property, resolving all debts and claims, and distribution of the decedent’s estate.
The formal probate process may be necessary depending on the value of the decedent’s assets. The probate process can be lengthy and complex taking as long as a few years to complete. It is advisable to contact a solicitor for more information about the specific process. Independent advice is also available from HMRC’s Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on 0845 302 0900, or on-line at www.hmrc.gov.uk/inheritancetax. The Money Advice Service also provides independent guidance at https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/dealing-with-the-debts-of-someone-who-has-died. We have listed some general guidance regarding the probate process below.
STEPS TO THE PROBATE PROCESS
- Determine if the decedent has a will or a specific plan for how the estate will be settled.
- List all assets and review all financial records. Complete a search for unknown accounts and property.
- Upon review of the decedent’s estate, determine probate qualifications and procedures.
- If not laid out in the will, select a Personal Representative (PR) to handle the decedent’s final affairs: this must be done legally through the court.
- Contact the local court and complete and file the necessary documentation to apply for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. A solicitor can help you with this..
- The PR will be responsible for completing the probate process. The PR’s duties may include:
- Collecting all assets known and unknown for inventory.
- Cancelling daily routines such as direct debits, utilities, prescriptions, employment, and postal mail.
- Liquidating the assets of the estate.
- Paying any and all outstanding debts and claims. Investigating and validating all claims made by heirs, creditors, or other parties.
- Determining the shares of the estate due to heirs as indicated by will or by probate law as appropriate.
- Continuing to paying any ongoing bills such as mortgages and utility bills.
- Continuing to check in with the court and file any necessary paperwork.
- Filing inheritance tax returns and paying any taxes due.
- Upon receiving permission from the court, distributing estate to heirs.
Again, it is important to recognise that the probate process is complex and lengthy. It may be important to hire a solicitor to ensure all probate procedures are properly and successfully completed. This list of steps to the probate process is intended for general guidance.