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Wills and Probate – why are they so important?

When it comes to preparing a will or organising probate a lot of us don’t know much about what’s involved. Here’s a comprehensive funeral guide from ArrangingaFuneral.com, for advice on how to navigate these waters in the event of a parent’s passing.

Why is a will important?

When a parent passes away, it can be a dark and confusing time for many of us. We all cope in different ways, but it is important to know what needs to be done and who can help. You may wonder what will happen to their assets, properties and even shares in any business after they pass away. A good way to prepare for this is to make sure that there’s an up-to-date will.

Creating a will should be done professionally to ensure total clarity for the future of your parent’s estate (the collective name for all possessions). A will must be created whilst having (in the eyes of the law) the mental capacity to do so. As we can never tell when the onset of a mental illness such as Alzheimer’s disease may occur, it’s important to have a will in place throughout adult life. It’s equally important to ensure that a Will is up-to-date to include any changes such as new properties or new family members.

Without a will, the Rules of Intestacy nominate who will receive the estate. As these rules remain unchanged since 1925, the estate will go to a spouse, biological child or civil partner, but not to cohabiting partners, step-children or friends.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal authority to administer the estate of a deceased person. One or more people can be given this legal authority so the estate may be distributed to the beneficiaries correctly.

Probate involves corresponding with the Court, HM Revenue and Customs as well as all other financial institutions that your parent had assets with. It is the collection of all assets, settling of debts and taxes and correct distribution of the remainder of the estate in accordance with their will or Rules of Intestacy. The entire process of Probate varies depending on how complex the situation is, but can normally be settled in around 6 to 9 months.

Probate will determine who will get the legal authority to deal with the estate, whether there is a Will or not.

How do I know if Probate is required?

  • Is the deceased’s the sole name on a property?
  • Does the deceased hold assets with the value of £5000+ with financial institutions?*
  • Does a financial institution require a Grant of Probate to release funds that are in the sole name of the deceased?*
  • Did the deceased benefit from a trust?

If you have answered yes to any of the above, then it’s very likely that Probate is required.

*A threshold of more than £5000 may be used by some financial institutions, so it is worth finding out first exactly what they will require to release these funds.

What is the Grant of Representation?

The Grant of Representation is legally binding, making the person(s) named liable for administering the estate of the deceased.

There two main types of Grant of Representation:

  • The Grant of Probate, when there is a will
  • Letters of Administration, when there is no will

How can I apply for the Grant of Probate?

You have the right to apply for Grant of Probate if you are the Personal Representative (PR) of your parent’s estate. You are the PR if you are either:

  • the Executor that is named in your parent’s will
  • the next of kin (under the Rules of Intestacy) if there is no will

What are my duties as a PR?

Your duties as a PR may include any of the following:

  • Gathering estate assets and administering the estate
  • Filing the Inheritance Tax returns, Final Personal Income and Capital Gains Tax returns
  • Paying any debts and/ or charges against the estate
  • Distributing the balance remaining in accordance with the will of the deceased or Rules of Intestacy.

The legalities surrounding Probate can be confusing and difficult to deal with after losing a parent. It’s often a good idea to seek help in deciding what is necessary to your situation by finding someone else oversee the processes – so that you can focus on other arrangements.

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