Before you can apply for a grant of probate, there is plenty of information that you will need to gather about the estate in question. This is because the government needs to know the value of the estate before approving your application. If you fail to collect this information beforehand, it could slow down the process significantly. This article will help you understand exactly what information you need and how you can obtain it, and will detail any additional steps that you need to take before you can submit your application.
The very first step before you start searching for documents and valuing your loved one’s estate is the register their death and notify multiple governmental organisations. You can report the death to all of these organisations in one go by using the Tell Us Once service on the government website, available to those living in England, Scotland, and Wales. Once you have registered the death, you need to use the Tell Us Once service within 28 days.
If you have been named as an executor in someone’s will, they should have told you where the document is being kept so that you can start the probate process quickly. If not, there are several ways that you can search for it.
First, you should check their property for a physical document. Many people keep their will alongside other important documents in a filing cabinet or a safe. If you find a copy of the will, check whether it was written with a solicitor or a bank and contact them to ensure that the copy you have is the original document. If it is not, you should ask them to send you the original will. In a similar vein, if you cannot find a copy of the will but you know which organisation or individual it was written with, you should contact them and ask for its whereabouts. Failing this, you might be able to search the deceased’s wallet or emails to find out which bank they used.
If you are unable to find the will anywhere and you don’t know which organisation it was written with, you can check with the Principal Registry of the Family Division or with Certainty, which is a National Will Register that can be paid to look for your loved one’s will.
If you cannot find a will after following these steps, it is possible that there is no will. In this case, you should apply for a grant of letters of administration rather than a grant of probate. This means that, instead of dividing the estate according to a will, the deceased’s assets would be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. Whoever is determined to be owed the most assets is usually responsible for dealing with the application and the estate.
Once you have found the will – or determined that there is no will – you should start gathering details about the value of your loved one’s estate. You can look for financial records that specify how much debt and tax were owed before their death, the value of any gifts given by the deceased in the seven years before their death, the value of their shareholdings, investments, pensions, and bank accounts, as well as any life insurance policies that you might be able to claim on. The easiest way to do this is by contacting each relevant organisation. Usually, you will need to send them a death certificate to access the information that you need. After the organisations are aware of the death and have detailed the assets, they will freeze them until the grant of probate or grant of letters of administration has been approved.
If you are the executor of your loved one’s will, it is up to you to keep their property secure and to protect any physical assets included in their estate. As soon as you possibly can, you should contact their house insurance provider to notify them of the death and to ensure that the insurance is adequate. Following this, you should visit the property and make sure that it is completely secure against break-ins. In addition to securing the house, you can gather any valuables that are included in the will for safekeeping until probate has been approved.
When you are happy that the property is secure and insured and valuables are protected, you should value the property. Searching Zoopla for similar sized houses in the same area as the property will help you figure out how much it should be worth. If your property is valued at only slightly below the current inheritance tax threshold of £325,000, the HMRC might suspect that you are trying to avoid taxation and may therefore challenge your valuation. Under these circumstances, you should hire a RICS qualified surveyor or an estate agent to value your property.