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Selective focus of a stack of black paper written with Probate and small cardboard house.

Explaining the Probate Process

Probate is the legal and financial process that is required when someone has sadly passed away. This includes arranging submissions to HMRC regarding money, assets and other possessions, and sharing them with named parties – their inheritance – after settling taxes and other debts. Probate is a process that often needs to be handled during a difficult time and typically takes 6 months to complete.

To make things easier, we have laid out below what you need to do, and what you can expect to happen.

Step one: determine if Probate is required
Any death will need to be registered but probate may not be required if the Deceased jointly owned land, property, shares or money, as they will pass to the surviving owners.

Step two: defining the Executor
If probate is required, this process of organising, administering and sharing out a Deceased’s estate is usually completed by a defined ‘Executor’ in a Will.

If there is not a Will – a situation called Intestacy – often the person with the largest claim, or entitlement, can apply for a Grant of Administration. Usually, this is the closest living relative.

If you have been named an Executor but would prefer not to take on the responsibility (or are the person with the largest claim if there is no Will), an independent party can carry out all the steps for you by being appointed on behalf of the Estate.

Step three: Valuing the Estate, preparing the IHT Return and Applying for the Grant
Before you can start organising things, you (the Executor) will need to apply for a Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or Grant of Administration (if there is no Will). These are legal documents that give you the authority to handle the deceased’s affairs.

Enquiries need to be made to establish the Deceased’s assets and liabilities. These will need to be declared to HMRC through the IHT return. Depending on the value of the estate and whether it is passing to charity or to the deceased’s spouse, either an IHT205 (a shortened and simplified form for less complex estates) or an IHT400 (a full IHT return which requires more details to be included in numerous schedules) will be prepared. You will find more details on the forms you need to complete here.

Step four: Pay off any debts
Once any Inheritance Tax is settled, other creditors can now be paid. This could include anything from mortgages and loans to utility companies.

Step five: Distribute the rest of the Estate
With all the creditors paid, the remaining assets and money can be distributed as per directions in the Will, if there is one. If there is no Will, the law decides how much any entitled parties should receive.

The Probate process ends once all taxes and debts have been paid and all inheritance passed on.

CoreProbate can help you at every stage of this rather confusing process, providing advice on what to do and when, acting as mediators to settle disputes, or even taking the pressure of you by handling the entire process end-to-end. CoreProbate has brought together the leading UK specialists on everything Probate and together our network has handled over 30,000 probate cases successfully.

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