Dealing with probate

ProbateDealing with the administration of an individual’s estate can be a complex and time-consuming experience, which carries with it a number of legal obligations. At Berley, we are licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to carry out non-contentious probate. Here, our team of probate specialists in London aim to outline some key elements of the process, as well as suggesting some tax-efficient measures for you to consider as part of your own estate planning strategy.

What does probate involve?

Probate is the process of dealing with a deceased individual’s estate in order to ensure that their property, money and possessions are distributed in accordance with their wishes. When executing a will, there is a number of requirements that need to be met and forms to be filled before an individual’s estate can be finalised and distributed to the relevant beneficiaries. As the probate process can be complex, you can engage a specialist probate accountant at Berley to assist you. Listed below are some key steps to probate:

  1. Check if the deceased has a valid will.
  2. Your accountant or solicitor will need to obtain a professional valuation of the estate and then report this valuation to HMRC. This step involves locating all of the assets, investments and liabilities relating to the estate, including any gifts made by the deceased during the last seven years.
  3. If the deceased’s assets are worth more than £5,000, they’re then able to apply for probate online (if you have the original will, the original death certificate and have reported the valuation of the estate to HMRC) or by post. There is an application fee of £215 if the application is made by an individual. If a probate specialist at Berley is making the application on behalf of you, the application fee is £155 plus a probate service fee. Typically, our probate service fee is cheaper than a solicitor. It’s worth noting that the government has been wanting to introduce a new fee system, supposedly starting on 1 April 2019 but it has been delayed at the moment.
  4. You must then pay any Inheritance tax that’s due. The standard rate for this tax is 40%, however, this is dependent on the value of the estate and whether it is classified as being under or over the threshold (£325,000). This is another tricky step as a range of reliefs, exceptions and exemptions can apply so check with our probate specialists first.
  5. Following this, the executor now has the legal authority to deal with the estate, including sending a copy of the grant to relevant organisations like banks in order for them to release the assets. Any outstanding household bills, debts or mortgages must be settled too.
  6. A record of the estate accounts needs to be kept, including how any property, money or possessions are to be split.
  7. Finally, the assets can be distributed and passed on to any beneficiaries named in the will.

For more information on each of the above-mentioned steps, you can read our detailed probate factsheet which provides a comprehensive breakdown of the requirements and rights of those involved in executing a family member’s will.

How should I be preparing my estate?

It’s never too early to begin planning for the future, and preparing your financial affairs by writing a tax-efficient will is good practice for anyone concerned about their family’s welfare in the event of their passing. Allocating your assets early on ensures that your wishes are carried out in the event that you do pass unexpectedly, and this enables you to exercise control over your property and personal belongings, as well as providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

Inheritance tax planning is another key consideration. At Berley, our tax specialists can help you to restructure your estate in the most tax-efficient way possible.

How Berley can help with probate

Formerly, probate was only able to be carried out by members of the legal profession, however in 2014 accountants were given the power to do so and at Berley, we have a team of probate specialists licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales helping clients across London. This effectively cuts out the middle man and in turn, saves time, money and stress.

Dealing with probate requires intricate knowledge of finance and is an overall heavily numerical matter. In order to acquire the relevant account information of the deceased, it’s best to go through a qualified, specialist accountant as they can swiftly and efficiently access the relevant accounting information that a solicitor isn’t typically privy to.

For more information on the processes and strategies for protecting your estate and ensuring that your wishes are exercised in the event of your death, our detailed probate factsheet provides a comprehensive insight into the considerations you should make. Alternatively, you can contact us directly on 020 7636 9094 or send us an email to arrange for an appointment with one of our specialists.

*This factsheet considers the probate process as it applies in England and Wales. Please note that the process is known as ‘confirmation’ in Scotland and ‘grant of probate’ in Northern Ireland and is dealt with separately in those countries.

This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.