My father has just died. What is probate and how do I go about sorting out his estate?
The first thing to establish is whether your father has left a will and whether he has appointed an executor to administer his estate.
If there is a will and he has named you as an executor, it will be your responsibility to establish what property and money are officially included in his estate and how your father wished them to be distributed.
You will need to apply for probate fairly early on in the process as this gives you the court’s authority to administer the will. The Probate Service forms part of the Family Division of the High Court, which deals with non-contentious probate matters, and is able to issue a Grant of Representation. This document is usually required by asset holders before they hand anything over to you for distribution.
If your father died without making a will or appointing an executor, the process is slightly more complicated and involves applying for Letters of Administration. Without a will, there is a set legal formula for distributing assets to beneficiaries which includes spouses, children and grandchildren.
If the total value of the estate, minus expenses, comes to more than £325,000, inheritance tax or death duties may need to be paid to the Inland Revenue. Bequests to spouses and charities are exempt from tax but for anyone else, this means any assets over the £325,000 threshold will attract a 40% tax rate. Married couples and registered civil partnerships can transfer their unused allowance to their surviving partner, effectively meaning a married couple will have a joint threshold of £650,000 before their children need to pay tax.
It’s stressful enough grieving for a lost relative without having to worry about the complicated process of distributing their assets. Solicitors can help to make life easier for you.
Author: Emma Stride
Published on 25th February 2014
(Last updated 13th June 2014)