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WHAT IS A GRANT?

A Grant of Probate is a particular type of Grant of Representation provided for by the Probate Registry which confers legal authority to the executor appointed in a deceased’s Will.

This authority allows the executor to deal with the assets in a deceased's estate, for example to close his bank accounts, to sell his property and pay his debts and expenses of the administration of his estate.

As the Grant Probate proves the validity of the Will, it is only relevant when the individual who has passed away, did so with a valid Will in place.

WHEN IS A GRANT OF PROBATE NEEDED?

Whether a Grant of Probate is needed depends on the assets held by the deceased.

Generally, obtaining a Grant of Probate is usually required for an estate when:

  • The estate is worth more than £15,000.
  • There is a property or land needing to be sold or ownership transferred.
  • The deceased held stocks and shares.

If none of the above apply, then a Grant of Probate may not be required. However, there can still be times where speaking to a specialist Probate Practitioner is crucial in obtaining peace of mind and vital legal advice.

Latimer Lee Solicitors Limited have a dedicated, professional, and dependable Private Client Team based in our Ramsbottom office. The team are efficient, responsive, and committed to be as efficient and accommodating as possible during a family’s time of need.

WHAT IS NEEDED TO OBTAIN A GRANT?

There is an obligation on the Personal Representatives of the Estate to make the fullest enquiries to ascertain the extent of the assets and liabilities in the estate as at the date of death.

This can be a lengthy and time-consuming process as many organisations may be involved, for example, banks, building societies, insurance companies, stockbrokers, estate agents and HM Revenue & Customs.

There is a vital requirement to complete a document relating to gross and net value of the estate and requires confirmation in relation to Inheritance Tax Liability to be provided to HM Revenue & Customs.

In cases where there is no Inheritance Tax liability a summary document is completed, and the Revenue can require the Personal Representative to provide full details within 35 days of submission of the account.  It is unlikely that they will request these details if the estate is a reasonable amount below the Inheritance Tax threshold but they do look at these matters randomly so there is the possibility.  Therefore, the information needs to be accurate even if it is not a taxable estate.

We here at Latimer Lee Solicitors Limited are committed to assisting families to ensure this process is completed as accurately and efficiently as possible. Our Private Client Team are experienced in liaising with HM Revenue & Customs and experts in capitalising on all available tax reliefs and exemptions.

HOW IS A GRANT OBTAINED?

The Personal Representatives must complete a variety of tasks.

  1. Register the death

The first requirement is to register the death. You must register the death within 5 days, including weekends.

  1. Value the estate

You will need to establish all assets and liabilities held by the deceased and find all records of any other accounts they hold.

This may be extremely complex, with multiple investments, properties and personal belongings to consider.

You'll most definitely need to contact the following organisations:

  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • The Local Authority
  • Private Pension Providers
  • Banks
  • Lenders
  • Stockbrokers
  1. File the Inheritance Tax Forms

You will need to establish whether there is any Inheritance Tax Liability payable on the estate. This will direct you to which inheritance tax form you are required to complete.

The process differs depending on the date of death. There is an online checker provided for on the Government’s website to help you to identify the relevant forms.

You will also need to provide HM Revenue & Customs with all details relating to gifts made by the deceased in the seven years prior to their death. These must be accounted for correctly to ensure the inheritance tax calculation is accurate.

There are additional forms which will need to be completed when the relevant exemptions or reliefs apply.

  1. File the Probate application paperwork

Upon completion of the HM Revenue and Customs paperwork, the executors of the estate must sign a Statement of Truth for the Probate Court stating the value of the gross and net estate of the deceased and to confirm that they will administer the estate according to the terms of the Will.

The Statement of Truth and the HM Revenue & Customs account must be lodged at the Probate Court. Once they accept the papers, they will issue the Grant. We normally expect the Grant to be issued within 8-10 weeks of the Probate Court receiving the documentation.

  1. Pay the Probate fees

The probate application fee in England and Wales is £273, regardless of the size of the estate (though there is an exemption for estates worth less than £5,000).

It is our advice you obtain at least three copies of the Grant of Probate, which cost £1.50 each.

You can pay for the application fee and the copies by cheque or card payment over the phone.

  1. Pay inheritance tax

Inheritance Tax must be paid within 6 months of the date of death. Failure to do so will result in significant penalties being issued.

  1. Consider Statutory Notices

Statutory Notices are two notices; one placed in the London Gazette and the other in the newspaper local to where the deceased lived to advertise his/her death to any potential creditors.

The general rule is that Personal Representatives who have distributed the assets of a deceased person are personally liable to any creditors for any unpaid debts and liabilities, even if they are unaware of them at the time of distribution.

However, as the Personal Representative, you can protect yourself from such liability if you decide to place such advertisements. The costs of said advertisements are usually in the region of £160.00 – £200.00.

Advertisement would ensure you have provided notice of your intention to distribute the assets of the estate, requiring any person or organisation interested to send in particulars of their claim as a creditor. The advertisement will state that any notice of any such claims must be given to you within the two-month period, and once the two-month period has lapsed, you can distribute the estate having regard only to the claims of which you have received notice, if any.  If a claim is made subsequently by someone of whom you had no notice, you are not personally liable.

AFTER THE GRANT HAS BEEN ISSUED

The Grant of Probate gives the Personal Representatives the authority to realise the assets, which is forwarded to all the relevant institutions to receive payment and appropriate closure forms.  In most cases, closure forms are to be completed and signed by the Personal Representatives prior to the release of funds.

As soon as funds have been received, you must attend to discharging all liabilities of the estate.

Please note that the Funeral account and Inheritance Tax payment are the only liabilities of the estate that may be discharged prior to obtaining a Grant.  An application has to be made to the deceased’s bank account for them to release the necessary funds.

It is vital that liabilities are discharged in the correct order. In dealing with the final administration of the estate, payment must be made of priority debts first. This is in accordance with the prescribed order of priority.

This can be a very complex and demanding process, and it is highly recommended you seek legal advice to ensure matters are dealt with with the utmost certainty. The Private Client Department here at Latimer Lee Solicitors are specialists in this area, with a combined 56 years of experience. Our skilful and efficient Probate Practitioners are able to assist with this process to ensure matters are dealt with without error.

THE FINAL WINDING UP

Once all the assets have been collected and all the liabilities have been discharged the balance of the estate will then be ascertained and can be distributed or held in trust for the beneficiaries under the terms of the Will.

Failure to comply with the terms of the Will will result in the Personal Representatives being liable.

HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE?

As each individuals’ circumstances are unique, it is hard at the very outset of a matter, however simple it appears at first glance, to predict how quickly the administration will take.

We usually suggest that 12 months is a good rule of thumb. Sometimes it is sooner than this, sometimes it takes longer.

There is a piece of legislation that allows certain classes of people to bring a claim against the estate of a deceased person if they feel they should have been provided for and they have not.

This legislation is called the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”). The Act sets down the classes of people who can bring a claim. If a person falls into a class and is not provided for, their right to bring a claim is automatic. They do not need to seek the permission of the Court.

The Act gives those who believe they should have benefitted from the estate a window of 6 months from the date of the issue of the Grant of Probate to have their claim issued by the Court. Following this any potential claimant then has a further 4 months to serve their claim upon the Executors.

Should you require further information relating to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, we strongly recommend you seek independent legal advice. We here at Latimer Lee Solicitors Limited are extremely knowledgeable on this matter and can provide the required advice and guidance.

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