How probate works and what to expect in 2019

Applying for probate explained
Get an insurance quote!
applying for probate

When do you need probate?

Along with “When is probate required?” and “Do I need probate?” this is one of the questions that executors ask most often when faced with the legal process of managing a deceased person's estate for the first time. To answer all of these, you need to know whether the person who died owned any property, land or shares. If they didn’t, or if the estate has passed to a surviving spouse or civil partner because the assets were held in joint names, you probably don’t need to apply for probate. In other cases, getting probate gives you the right to administer the deceased’s property, possessions and finances.

How does probate work?

The probate process involves the following steps:

  1. Check the validity of the Will and verify the beneficiaries’ entitlement to the deceased’s estate.
  2. Determine the value of the estate by identifying and valuing all the deceased’s assets, as well as all outstanding debts.
  3. To administer the estate, you must apply for a Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry. Applying for probate will give you legal authority to deal with their financial affairs. This involves filling in a probate application form which can be obtained online from the Government's portal which is an excellent source of probate information and probate advice.
  4. As the deceased’s executor or representative you must swear an oath that the information you supply is true to the best of your knowledge. This can be done at a local probate office or at the office of a commissioner for oaths (many solicitors offer this service).
  5. Pay any Inheritance Tax due to HMRC.
  6. Settle any outstanding liabilities by selling some or all of the deceased’s assets if necessary. This is because, in UK law, the rights of creditors outweigh those of beneficiaries. Bear in mind that tax owed by the deceased is considered a debt on the estate. In situations where debts exceed the value of the estate, the estate becomes insolvent.
  7. Record all payments to and from the estate, showing the remaining balance to be distributed amongst the beneficiaries.
  8. Distribute the remaining assets and funds according to the terms of the will.

You can apply for probate yourself, or engage a solicitor or another person licensed to provide probate services to supply you with probate help.

How long does probate take?

The probate procedure takes six to nine months to complete on average. The time it takes can vary depending on the size of the estate and how in order their affairs have been left. However, there are occasions when the applying for probate process can take years to complete, for example, when the Will is contested.

Responsible for an empty property in probate?

Get a home insurance quote!

Ways to reduce inheritance tax

Inheritance bills can be reduced through various reliefs, reductions and exemptions. For example:

  • No inheritance tax is payable on assets under £325,000.
  • If the deceased left their home to their children (including adopted, foster or stepchildren) or grandchildren in their will then the threshold for paying inheritance tax increases to £425,000.
  • Assets and property left to a partner are exempt from inheritance tax.
  • Gifts made to charity in a will are exempt from inheritance tax.
  • Gifts to provide reasonable maintenance for a child under 18 (or someone dependent on the deceased) are exempt from inheritance tax.
  • Up to £3,000 per year can be gifted, tax free.
  • Gifts of up to £250 each can be given tax free to any individuals.
  • Parents can give £5,000 as a wedding gift, and grandparents can give £2,500 without tax liability.
  • Gifts are not counted towards the value of the estate if they were given more than seven years before the deceased died.
  • If the deceased owned shares in a private company or agricultural land, up to 100% business property relief can apply.

Contested wills and challenged estates

Any dispute is obviously distressing to the family of the deceased. Most Wills are contested if relatives believe they have been unfairly treated, or because insufficient provision has been made for a dependant.

Common reasons for dispute include:

  • The will was not property executed.
  • The deceased was of insufficient mental capacity to draft their will.
  • The will is invalid as it was made under duress.
  • There is a dispute involving property.

Need house insurance during probate?

Get a quote!

Satisfied customers

Taking out insurance for my mother's empty house after she died was so easy with HomeProtect and far cheaper than her original insurers - we even decided to change the insurance on our holiday home to HomeProtect as again it was much cheaper than the company we had been using. Trustpilot, 13 July 2017
We had the sad news that my mother-in-law had passed away and it was left up to the family to sort out her affairs. To our surprise there was no insurance on her house so we felt duty bound to secure the house by covering it with a probate insurance cover. The process was easy and took all the stress out of the situation as there was lots going on. I would highly recommend home protect for this type of cover. Trustpilot, 21 February 2017
A quality presentation of documentation and effective renewal at a similar premium to the previous year. Dealing with a family home which remains empty as owner in a residential home has emotional issues. The manner of renewal made it easier than it might have been. Trustpilot, 6 February 2017