*PLEASE NOTE THIS IS UK LAW. IT ALSO INCLUDES INFORMATION FOR UK EXPATS*
This topic talks about Probate and the various steps that are involved in this process. We then move on to giving examples of the legal aspect of probate through the knowledge we have gained. In honesty, when you are living through a situation such as this, quite often you have to just get on with everything that is being thrown your way and just deal with it.
You often do not get a chance to take a step back and see/realise exactly what you are dealing with. It is only when putting this together that we ourselves are seeing the many different steps that are involved, It also makes us realise why this is such a lengthy process. As when you are in it, as you are consistently busy with many different tasks, if it had not been for the daily notes that are written, we probably wouldn’t remember we’ve done half of these things.
At the same time, it does not help when processes are delayed due to the organisations you are dealing with, and it especially does not help when these delays are out of your control. Because of thease reasons, as a family, we would strongly advise that you be prepared for a long probate journey. The process might not take a long time for you, however, if you are prepared that it might, you are then able to better manage your own expectations, rather than feel let down by unrealistic given expectations.
Our best advice would always be to manage your own expectations. Judge each situation how you really see things going. As an example, If you are being told things will take three weeks but you can see it will take longer, believe and go with your gut.
We have put this together based on Google searching and our own experience. We have also tried to list it in the order we are progressing through this journey. Please see Probate which covers the following areas:
- Registering a death
- How to find a will
- Gazette Notice – What is a Gazette Notice
- Our probate Journey
1. Registering a death
“You should register a death within five days, unless it has been referred to the coroner, you will need to: complete the registration of a death form. provide the medical certificate of the cause of death, signed by a doctor”.
In our situation. The next morning when we phoned up to obtain the death certificate we were informed it had been referred to the coroner. We got the shock of our lives receiving this news. And just like that within less than 24 hours was the start of a new difficult journey for us.
2. How to Find a Will:
- “Search the house. It sounds obvious, but the first place to look is where the deceased person lived, as that is where most Wills are kept”.
- “Ask your local District Probate Registry. Once a Grant of Probate has been issued, the Will becomes a public document”.
- “Ask their solicitor”.
- “Ask the bank”.
Probate – What debts are forgiven at death?
“The process of paying your bills and distributing what’s left is called probate. The executor of your estate, the person responsible for dealing with your will and estate after your death, will use your assets to pay off your debts“.25 Mar 2019.
“When someone dies, debts they leave are paid out of their ‘estate’ (money and property they leave behind). You’re only responsible for their debts if you had a joint loan or agreement or provided a loan guarantee – you aren’t automatically responsible for a husband’s, wife’s or civil partner’s debts“.
3.1 Please see some useful links below:
- Stages of probate in England and Wales
- Debts when someone dies
- What Happens to my Debt When I Die? Is it Forgiven or Transferable?
- Probate when the deceased was domiciled abroad
3.2 What is the cost of Probate?
“You can read more about the costs of probate here”.
“In essence, the costs are split into two parts. There is the fixed fee that you pay to the government and then there is the fee that you pay to a solicitor or probate specialist to deal with all matters.
The fixed fees are going to change from April 2019. At present, there is a £215 cost for a probate application fee made by an individual or £155 for applications made by a probate solicitor or specialist.
The fees for using a solicitor or probate specialist will typically range from between 3% to 5% plus VAT. As an example, if your estate is worth £500,000, then costs will range from £15,000 to £25,000 plus VAT.
Therefore the probate cost will vary depending on the deceased person’s assets and property value. Generally, as you can see, the higher the value of the asset, the more the probate costs”.
3.3 When should you use a Probate Specialist?
You can consider a specialist if:
- The estimated value of the estate is more than the inheritance tax threshold. Currently, the threshold lies at £325,000.
- There is no will left or when the legitimacy of the will is in question.
- Some portions of the estate are held in trust.
- The estate is declared insolvent/bankrupt
- Foreign assets are involved.
3.4 Can I probate myself?
“If you’re an executor you can apply for probate yourself or use a solicitor or another person licensed to provide probate services. If there’s no will you can apply for letters of administration. You follow the same steps as applying for probate but you can only apply by post”.
3.5 The following links have further information on probate:
- Wills, Probate and Inheritance – GOV.UK guide:
- Overview of Probate
- Valuing the estate of someone who’s died -GOV.UK
- If the person left a will
- If the person did not leave a will
- If you’re an executor
- Applying for grant of probate
- After you’ve applied
3.6 Probate Valuation Do I need to get the house valued for probate?
“As part of applying for probate, you need to value the money, property and possessions (‘estate’) of the person who’s died. You don’t need probate for all estates. Check if you need it. This will affect how you report the value to HMRC, and the deadlines for reporting and paying any Inheritance Tax”.
“Valuations for probate is legally required by HM Revenue and Customs in order to establish the value of a property as part of a deceased person’s estate. The valuation must reflect the current market value at the time of death”.
How do you value a house for probate?
“As part of applying for probate, you need to value the money, property and possessions (‘estate’) of the person who has passed. Need to complete 3 main tasks when you value the estate: Contact organisations such as banks or utility providers about the person’s assets and debts. Estimate the estate’s value.21 Nov 2017”.
How many property valuations do you need for probate?
“You can also ask estate agents to value the property, and if you take this approach, get two or three valuations and take the average price. The value you submit and any calculations you make must be justifiable should you be asked by the District Valuer”.
What is the difference between probate value and market value?
“Probate property value is the amount you expect that property to fetch if it were sold on the open market. This is the same as the market value of the property. If the house sells for less than probate value then you are able to claim back the difference in tax that was paid”.
How do you avoid probate on a home?
Here are some basic tips to keep more of your estate in the hands of the people who matter most.
- Write a Living Trust. The most straightforward way to avoid probate is simply to create a living trust.
- Name beneficiaries on your retirement and bank accounts.
- Joint Tenancy with a Right of Survivorship.
3.7 Please see link below for a guide on the assets that go through probate:
3.8 What Happens after Probate is Granted?
“When someone passes on, their next of kin are obligated to apply for a grant of probate. Once they have sworn the oath, it gives them a legal responsibility to handle or manage any property, assets, and cash possessions left behind”.
3.9 Why does probate take so long?
“It depends on many factors. Some estates settle or close within a few weeks or a few months, while others can take a year or longer. The probate process involves a good many steps, all of them necessary to move assets from the ownership of a deceased individual into the ownership of a living beneficiary.31 Dec 2018”.
(We are living proof of this scenario, as two years on from starting our Probate journey, things still have not come to a close).
“On average in England and Wales it takes between 9 and 12 months to get Grant of Probate and to complete the Estate administration process. Probate can take longer in complex Estates, and where unforeseen delays arise, such as if there is no Will”.
“Our Probate Solicitors estimate that an average Estate that includes a property will take between nine and twelve months to finalise. However this can be longer if the Estate is complex or if issues occur – for instance, if a beneficiary cannot be found or the Will is challenged”.
3.10 How long does probate take once submitted UK?
“How Long Does Probate Take? Many families are still wondering how long does probate take once submitted. After the oath swearing, the grant of probate usually takes between 3-4 weeks to be received. The remaining probate process usually takes up to six months to complete but can easily go past 12 months”.
In our case, our expectations were never managed well, this is why we were completely dismayed each time the process involved more aspects and was taking longer and longer.
We would strongly advise to be aware of this, and also speak up if/whenever you might be unhappy. The way we see it, this is a service you are paying for, which is not cheap, therefore you have the right to express any concerns you might have. We have and will continue to do this throughout our probate journey. (Once probate has been granted the next stage is the Gazette Notice).
4. What is a gazette notice?
“A government gazette (official gazette, official journal, official newspaper, official monitor or official bulletin) is a periodical publication that has been authorised to publish public or legal notices”.
4.1 What is the Gazette official public record?
“The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published”.
4.2 Do you have to announce a death in the newspaper?
“Death notice: a paid announcement in a newspaper that gives the name of the person who died and details of the funeral or memorial service, as well as where donations can be made. Obituary: an article written by the newspaper’s staff offering a detailed biography of the person who died”.
4.3 Please see the following links for further information:
(As we have a probate solicitor, they did the paperwork for the above for us).
4.4 Our experience with the Gazette notice:
When we received the announcement from our solicitor, it was the strangest thing ever. Although we were seeing it in black and white, it still didn’t feel real or be associated with our Dad. This brought about a stressful time for us, as we were worried about what could possibly come about from this notice being published: Such as would people we never heard of coming forward?.
It was also an upsetting time as once it was published, companies would contact my sister and I directly offering to buy the property. We felt this to be very insensitive and at the same time, we did not understand how they got our contact details as it wasn’t listed in the Gazette. The only details that go in there are the person who is deceased.
5. Our Probate journey:
Hearing the mention of the word probate sends a churn in my stomach. Before this experience, we never had a clue what this term meant, much less the levels that would be involved in the process. It seems this subject is often left unspoken which is part of the reason why it’s so unknown.
We’re hoping this can be the start of change so that families will be more prepared for exactly what they need to do and can also be aware of the plan/processes that should be put in place now rather than later.
I realised that in any social situation, I would start talking about my experiences and try to share/advise my friends with children. After a while, I didn’t feel right doing this, it didn’t feel as though it was ever the right environment to talk about such things. This is when the idea of the blog seemed even more appropriate. A platform where we can openly share and express our ongoing experience.
We are aware this can be seen as a morbid, even depressing subject that we never like to talk about, but also feel these are things people should know. We also feel there is more to gain knowing this than if we didn’t share our experience.
This blog was started in November 2018. It started playing on my mind that we wanted to do something to help others, but as we are constantly busy, with new situations becoming an instant priority, the thought was there, but that was all. We didn’t have time to focus or make a start. Then randomly one evening, I was watching a drama series on TV called Vera. It just so happens that in this episode one of the characters had to sort out probate.
As soon as the word was mentioned, I got a horrible feeling inside. I tried to ignore it, but every single time I heard it, the same feeling kept happening. It felt almost like I was being slapped in the face. I could tell this feeling wasn’t going to go away unless I did something about it. And so, I started writing down my thoughts and feelings, hence the start of this blog.
It was also then I became aware of just how much the whole process was affecting me without me realising the extent.
Our aim is to try and save families from going through the same unknown experience should they find themselves in a similar circumstance to ours.
This is a journey that we are still on. The more things we learn and must deal with, makes us feel even more passionate about creating this blog. Through our ongoing experience, our aim is to spread the word and share knowledge.
Below are a few tips for the initial stages after losing someone:
Things we would advise:
- Check for a will/Is it signed
- Try to find as many documents as possible: bank statements etc
- Find a good solicitor ( probate solicitor)
- If you find a will contact the solicitor ASAP
- Check to see if there are any accounts properties overseas. If so, these matters should be addressed as quickly as possible, as this can turn into a very lengthy process.
- Try to obtain as much paperwork as possible before contacting the overseas organisation
- Appoint a financial adviser (if you can afford it)
- Always keep on top of correspondence – emails, phone calls, letters etc
- Try to be as aware as possible when speaking to the various people/organisations involved in this process
- Seek legal advice should you become unsure of anything – Citizens Advice (etc)
Finally, we would advise being prepared that you might be spoken to in terms that you do not understand by organisations you have to deal with following a loss. A few examples would be:
- Solicitors – probate – conveyancing
- Coroners – for the issue of a death certificate
- Pathologists Medical staff
- Estate Agent – If a property is involved
These situations can leave you feeling vulnerable, exposed to your core and generally very low. In our situation we would ask what things mean, having to constantly express this is not our every day, we are in this situation through circumstance, not a choice. Often this would not make a difference. This resulted in us having to do research and google things when we didn’t get answers. This is where we would build up our knowledge. We are still finding ourselves in these situations to date. The more it happens to us, the more the need for this blog to be published became more apparent.