Probate – Frequently Asked Questions
References to ‘I/me’ are to the Personal Representative
One of the family keeps asking me (the executor) for a copy of the Will? Should I send it?
Once a Will is sent to the Probate Registry it becomes a public document. For that reason we recommend that a beneficiary should be told what is in the Will as soon as possible and be sent a copy. An exception may be where this disclosure could hinder the administration e g where a beneficiary is mischief making.
How long does it take to get a Grant of Probate?
A usual time scale is for a grant of representation to be made
- within 6 weeks from the date you first instruct us. if this is a non taxable estate and
- within 12 weeks if IHT has to be paid.
The extra time is needed in an IHT case because of the need
- to obtain a precise valuation of the estate
- to raise funds to pay Inheritance Tax
- to wait for the Revenue to provide the receipt.
What documents do you need from me?
At our first interview we request a folder of information giving details of
- Bank and building society accounts and passbooks
- National savings
- Pensions and other monies due
- Funeral expenses
- Other liabilities and mortgages outstanding
- Generally other accounts and investments helping to establish the net value of the estate
In addition we will need to see
- The death certificate, preferably 3 certified copies
- The original Will ( although initially a copy will be fine)
- Details of N I number and tax district and reference number for the person who has died
- (For each executor) ID information, I e copy of passport/driving licence and utility or other bill evidencing address.
Should I pay the bills or leave that to the solicitors to arrange ?
In order to keep costs down we recommend that PRs pay utility bills out of their own resources –then when we are in funds following the Grant we will make it our first priority to reimburse the PRs. In order to pay these expenses initially the PRs can use any cash found in the property.
I can’t afford to pay the funeral bill.
Most funeral directors will wait until after a grant of probate is made and any assets belonging to the deceased have been sold or realized. However most major Banks and building societies will pay the Funeral expenses direct on production of the invoices. Payment is made out of an account in the name of the deceased.
We are happy to arrange this.
How much will the service cost?
No two cases are the same. To assist we have given guideline prices. However after the first consultation when we have an idea of the size and complexity of the estate we will give a more definitive idea of costs. There will be no charge for this consultation
I have cleared the house – when can I put it on the market?
It is not necessary to have a Grant of representation before marketing a property. The only necessity is for a Grant of Probate to be issued before any sale completes. Only in a case where the Will is likely to be in dispute would we caution against marketing the house straightaway
Please note however that the value put in the account for property is generally checked with and agreed with the District Valuer (DV) about 6 months after death – and the DV is likely for IHT purposes to substitute the sale price for the probate value if the property has been sold in the meantime.
How much Inheritance Tax will I need to pay? Does it need to be paid up front ?
The total tax payable is 40% of the excess over £325,000(‘the Tax Free Band’) Therefore the IHT Bill on a £525,000 net estate is £80,000.
The tax is payable when the estate passes to children friends or relatives. No money going to spouse or civil partner will be taxed. If a legacy is left to charity then that will reduce the net estate for tax purposes. That means that if the net estate is £500,000 and a legacy of £10,000 is paid to charity then IHT is paid as if the estate is £490,000.
It also follows that if the Will is structured so that the Tax Free band is left to friends and relatives and the rest to charity, then there will be no tax to pay at all. We have administered estates up to £2million in value where the Will has been structured in this way, and there has been no inheritance tax to pay
Where the person who dies is a widow or widower (or a surviving civil partner) the Tax Free Band is £650,000. This assumes that the person who dies inherited his/her estate following the death of their spouse or civil partner.
However only 10% of the IHT bill attributable to property needs to be paid upfront. Therefore where the only asset in the estate is the deceased’s house (worth £525,000) then only £8000 needs to be paid in order to get a Grant of Probate; however the remaining £72000 will have to be paid as soon as the house is sold, together with interest.
Interest is payable on an estate 6 months after death. The present rate is 3.25% per annum
What is the procedure in obtaining a Grant?
Following receipt of the documents – see FAQ 3 above – we need to value the size of the estate and after deducting all liabilities an assessment is made of whether the estate is taxable.
An estate is taxable where the total value is over £325,000 (or £650,000 which is usually in the case of a widow or widower or surviving civil partner) after all money going to charity or a surviving spouse or civil partner is deducted. Where the estate is below this threshold or exempt from inheritance tax (IHT) then an account (IHT 205) is prepared. Precise valuations are desirable but not essential in order to obtain a grant of representation.
However where an estate is taxable greater precision is needed and a more detailed account is prepared (known as IHT 400) with schedules. Please note that where there is urgency the Revenue accept that the PRs can make ‘an educated guess’ of the values to be put in this form on the basis that the correct sums are furnished later on.
After establishing the size of the estate we calculate the amount of IHT payable and then generally this sum is released from one of the accounts belonging to the deceased. The sum is submitted to the Revenue who then issue a receipt.
This is then forwarded with a statement of truth, the original Will and other documents to the Probate Registry. The Grant of representation is then made 2 to 3 weeks later. This grant enables any assets belonging to the deceased to be cashed in or transferred into the name of the beneficiary and any property to be sold.
I have an offer from a cash buyer for the house. He says he can move very quickly. What do you think?
You must proceed with great caution. Remember your duty to the beneficiaries. If a beneficiary feels that you haven’t done your job properly and you have allowed a sale to go through at an undervalue then you could face criticism or even a claim for any loss sustained. A PR must be seen to be acting on professional advice. It is often a good idea to get 3 market appraisal letters before deciding how to market a property (and go for the one in the middle)