DIY Probate and how you can do it yourself
Posted 29th January 2019
Generally speaking, a grant of Probate is not required if the deceased’s estate is worth
less than £10,000. It is also vital to know that Probate is NOT required if the deceased
owned everything jointly with someone else. This is because everything owned jointly would automatically pass on to the surviving owner.
Below we list a step-by-step process on how to apply for a grant of Probate:
Register the death
This must be done within 5 days of the deceased passing away. Upon obtaining the death certificates, it is important to bear in mind that a number of organisations will require the original copy of the death certificate, so for this reason it is important to buy extra copies.
Valuing the estate
This will involve going through the deceased’s paperwork, bank statements etc and establishing all assets as well as gaining as much information as possible on all accounts held. You also need to consider assets. When you have all of this information, you will need to contact the individual institutions, inform them of the death, and arrange to send them a copy of the death certificate. The below is a list of these:
- HMRC (to ensure that there is no outstanding tax)
- all bank accounts
- any mortgage companies, credit card and loan companies
- stockbrokers (if applicable)
- the DWP (department for work and pensions)
- any pension providers
- the local council (to ensure that there is no outstanding council tax)
The government will eventually send you a unique reference number via the Tell us Once service. This is the process that spares you from having to contact government departments individually.
Valuing any properties/assets
If the deceased was a home owner, this property (or properties) will need to be valued. You can do this yourself by looking at similar house sale prices.
If the property is valued at more than £325,000 (the nil rate band for inheritance tax is currently set at £325,000), it is best practice to gain a written valuation from an estate agent or surveyor as this will assist you when dealing with HMRC. You will also need to do this for any other valuable assets such as expensive vehicles or pieces or jewellery or art.
Once you have done the above, you can apply to the Personal Application Department of the Probate Registry to complete a probate application form (this is a PA1 form). This can be downloaded from the Hm Courts & Tribunals Service website. (in Scotland, you sent confirmation forms C1 and C5 to the Sheriff Court).
Once you have completed the paperwork you must also swear an executor’s oath (confirming he details that you have supplied are correct which will need to be taken to a local Probate Registry).
Inheritance Tax Forms
You must complete forms to establish where any inheritance tax is due.
HMRC need details of any cash gifts made by the deceased within the last seven years. If the deceased was previously married to someone who died before them, you may be able to apply to increase the IHT threshold by adding any unused NRB (nil rate band). This could potentially boost the estates NRB (nil rate band) to up to £650,000.
For claiming additional allowance, if the estate is below the NRB (nil rate band) you will need to complete form IHT 217. If the estate is above, form IHT 402.
Currently, the probate fee in England and Wales is £215 (regardless of the size of the estate). These fees differ to £220 in Northern Ireland, and £200 in Scotland. If the estate is less than £5,000 then th fee is waived. Ensure that you also get multiple copies of the grant of probate (a minimum of 5 is good practice).
Paying any owed IHT (inheritance tax)
Any inheritance tax owed will need to paid before probate is granted. If the deceased has enough money in a bank account to cover this, you may be able to arrange a payment directly to HMRC to cover this and the bank will usually permit this upon receipt of the IHT 423 form. You can (in some instances) pay the owed inheritance tax in instalments. They will accept a minimum of a tenth in advance.
Once you have the grant of probate you are able to begin administering the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. It is important to consider advertising for any unknown creditors to come forward or you could be held personally responsible for any unpaid debts. The options for this are:
- notice in local paper
- contact the Gazette (this is the UK’s official public record; you can also place a Deceased Estate Notice here)
Once you have paid all beneficiaries/creditors/anything outstanding, it is important to prepare the final accounts detailing all monies received and paid out. It is important that you retain these for 12 years (this is the maximum period for anybody to put in a claim against the estate).
Probate (a grant of Probate) is a legal process that gives you authority to wind up the estate of somebody who has died. This includes sorting out all affairs and distributing the assets as per the Will.
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