Q: My sister asked me and our brother to be executors of her Will after her husband died. She now has terminal cancer and we are keen when the time comes to preserve as much of her estate as possible for her children, who are the beneficiaries. We are therefore wondering what exactly a solicitor does to get Probate and if there is even any need to use a solicitor?
A: There is nothing to stop you applying for probate yourselves but people often prefer to use a solicitor as getting probate can be a lengthy and involved task and it is essential that the process is executed correctly.
You will have to apply for a ‘grant of representation’, otherwise known as Probate. This is obtained from the Probate Registry on payment of a fee and it gives you the legal right to access the deceased’s bank accounts, collect and pay their debts and distribute the assets of their estate to the beneficiaries named in their Will.
A major part of applying for probate is valuing the deceased’s estate. As part of the estate valuation you will need to contact all organisations that might be owed money by the deceased, i.e. utilities companies etc, and also those who hold assets on behalf of the deceased, i.e. banks, building societies etc. Other assets such as property and jewellery must be independently valued. When you have all this information you can estimate the true value of the estate, which you must then report to HM Revenue and Customs. If the estate value dictates that inheritance tax is due, this must be paid prior to probate being granted. Although there are no deadlines for completing an estate valuation after death, inheritance tax must be paid by the end of the sixth month after the deceased’s death.