How does probate work? Know the important procedures if you decide to handle it yourself.
Executing a will might be intimidating. If the estate is simple, you may be able to settle it yourself and save money.
Executors must value the estate, apply for probate, and administer the estate, gathering assets and distributing them to beneficiaries. Scotland calls this Confirmation.
DIY probate depends on the nature of the estate, the will, and if you can handle the entire process.
We explain probate, including:
2. Paying for the funeral
4. Inheritance tax
7. Final accounting
Divides the procedure into manageable steps.
Check will for executor
Before starting probate, determine who will administer the estate. Will has this.
As executor, you’ll be responsible for administering the estate.
If you don’t feel capable, you can assign a solicitor or decline the responsibility by signing a Renunciation.
2. Funeral costs
Funerals are often held quickly after a death, before you can apply for probate.
In some situations, the deceased’s bank will cover funeral costs before the grant.
Ask if the funeral director will accept payment once probate is granted.
You or a loved one may have to pay for the funeral up front and then reimburse the estate.
Check the will for funeral wishes.
Apply for probate to execute the will.
First register the death, then analyse the estate.
After determining the estate’s size, fill out probate and inheritance tax papers.
You must also take an executor’s oath at the Probate Registry or a local solicitor’s office.
Our step-by-step approach explains probate grant.
Have you analysed the deceased’s funds and investments?
Each bank’s accounts, including stock and share Isas, are listed.
Do you need items (like property) appraised?
4. Pay inherittax
Any IHT due on the estate must be paid if HMRC accepts your submission.
Probate requires this.
If the dead had enough money in a bank account, HMRC can be paid directly. Most UK banks allow this with an IHT 423.
HMRC will accept IHT payments in instalments if the estate assets include property or shares, with just a tenth of the total required in advance.
Will the bank pay directly?
Is the deceased’s main account enough to pay IHT?
Learn more about inheritance rates and allowances.
Next, gather all the identified assets and distribute them according to the will.
Most institutions disburse funds immediately after probate.
Send them a certified grant copy to arrange this.
Your money should go into a separate executor’s account.
Remember to ask:
Will the decedent’s bank open an executor’s account?
Will I have internet access or a chequebook as executor?
Does using the deceased’s bank matter?
How will the bank verify identity for in-branch transactions?
6. Place a Gazette ad
Consider advertising for unknown creditors. If you don’t, you could be liable for unknown bills.
You don’t need probate to promote. You can post a deceased estates notice in the Gazette, the UK’s official public record, with a death certificate.
London, Edinburgh, and Belfast publish the Gazette. It costs £73.20 plus VAT, and you can create a PO box to hide your address.
You must provide potential creditors 2 months and 1 day to file a claim.
If the estate contains property, advertise in a local newspaper. Use the Gazette.
7. Finish accounting
Next, prepare final accounting and get beneficiary approval before distributing. This prevents money-distribution issues.
All estate money should be accounted for.
Keep this and accompanying documents for 12 years (the limitation period for any claim against the estate).
After receiving the monies, you can pay beneficiaries and creditors.
Remember to ask:
All beneficiaries and creditors?
Have you contacted beneficiaries and creditors?
All estate debts and taxes paid?
The estate should pay probate charges. If the executor does not have probate, they may need to pay upfront and be compensated.
Probate application fees in England and Wales are £215. Applying through a solicitor costs £155 less.
The government wanted to raise probate fees in 2019, but parliament dissolved.
Northern Ireland charges £261 and Scotland £200.
The only exemption is for estates worth less than £5,000; in Northern Ireland, it’s less than £10,000.
Additional copies cost £1.50 apiece. At least five copies are needed for administration.
Death certificates cost £11 in England and Wales, £8 in Northern Ireland, and £10 in Scotland. You may need to give banks or savings providers multiple copies.
If you hire a lawyer, factor in their bill.
Hire a probate lawyer?
If the estate is not too complex, you can handle each stage of probate yourself.
A probate solicitor can cost thousands of pounds, so going it alone saves money.
DIY probate reduces costs but adds paperwork and responsibility. As executor, you must pay all valid claims (including tax). Beneficiaries may sue you if you don’t act correctly.
In some circumstances, a lawyer can help you achieve probate, then you can handle estate administration.
If a bank drafted a will and was named a co-executor, some banks insist on serving as a professional executor and performing probate. This can be pricey because banks charge a percentage.
If the beneficiaries agree, the bank can resign its executor function. Our guide to probate solicitors explains fees.