When a loved one passes, the last thing you want to deal with is a lengthy probate process and the settlement of their financial affairs.
It is always a difficult time when a loved one passes away, and dealing with their estate can often have a compounding effect. The process of arranging a funeral service and clearing up outstanding financial affairs is stressful, especially in circumstances where you also have to go through the convoluted business of applying for probate.
Whether you’re new to the probate process or have been through it before, it isn’t easy and shouldn’t be done alone. In your time of need, the licensed probate specialists at Berley Chartered Accountants can assist with lessening the burden of applying for probate and settling your loved one’s estate.
What is Probate?
Probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person in England and Wales, which seeks to resolve all claims and distribute the deceased’s assets under a will. The threshold for probate is usually £15,000 but in some instances the banks holding the deceased's assets may impose a higher or lower value. The terminology surrounding this process varies throughout the United Kingdom and is defined under different monikers in Northern Ireland and Scotland, both of which also have different processes for finalising and administering the contents of an individual’s estate. In Northern Ireland this exercise is known as a ‘grant of probate’ and in Scotland it’s known as ‘confirmation’.
Historically, dealing with probate was a process reserved for legal professionals and solicitors, however as of August 2014, licensed accountants are also able to offer probate services. Allowing accountants to provide probate services makes the process much more efficient as lawyers are required to get in contact with a qualified accountant in order to obtain financial information on the deceased. Essentially, using an accountant streamlines this arduous process, meaning you can concentrate on honouring your loved one’s memory rather than painstakingly pursuing the settlement of their affairs.
Two types of grant
There are actually two types of grant concerning probate: Grant of probate and Grant of Letters of Administration, depending on whether the deceased had or hadn't made a will.
- Grant of Probate can be applied if the deceased left a will. This grant gives the executor of the will the legal authority to ask banks to release the deceased person's estate and carry out the wishes as stipulated in the will.
- Grant of Letters of Administration can be applied if the deceased didn't leave a will. In this case, a close relative (following the rules of intestacy) can apply and be given the authority to settle the deceased person's assets. The person who will be carrying out the duty and administering the estate is known as an Administrator.
How do I apply for probate?
The process for applying for probate requires the person involved to decide if they are applying for a Grant of Probate (when a will exists) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (when a will doesn't exist) at the very beginning of the process. In either case, a number of steps are required to be carried out before the estate is finalised, the will executed and passed on to its beneficiaries.
- Your accountant or solicitor will need to value the deceased’s estate and then report the valuation to HMRC.
- 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. In a will is absent, you apply for a Grant of Letter of Administration.
- 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). Bear in mind that there is a range of reliefs, exceptions and exemptions so it’s best to check with your accountant first.
- Following this, the executor or administrator now has the legal authority to deal with the estate, including sending a copy of the grant to relevant organisations asking them to release the assets. After that, any outstanding debts, including but not limited to funeral expenses, utilities bills or mortgages must then be paid off.
- A record of the estate accounts needs to be kept, including how any property; money or possessions are to be split.
- Finally, the assets can be distributed and passed on to any beneficiaries named in the will.
Why go to an accountant to do probate?
By going directly to an accountant rather than the time-honoured tradition of going to a lawyer, you are effectively cutting out the middleman - saving you time, money and stress.
Dealing with probate is a heavily numerical matter. In order to acquire the relevant account information of the deceased, a solicitor will need to liaise with an accountant or the accountant of the deceased. This can be a long-winded process that involves back-and-forth communication between parties, not exactly conducive to your needs in circumstances where you want a swift, simple and stress-free resolution. By enlisting the services of a qualified, specialist accountant who is also licensed to handle probate, you’re essentially streamlining the process and likely to save a significant sum of money too, as hiring a lawyer can cost considerably more than it would to go to an accountant as solicitors and banks often charge a percentage of the assets, whereas accountants typically charge on a time basis.
Berley will hold your hand through this difficult and sensitive time
At Berley, our licensed probate specialists have a proven track record of managing the financial affairs of many individuals and families across London, with some becoming personal friends. We understand that dealing with probate is a sensitive issue and it’s being done at a very sensitive time in your life. Providing the highest level of customer service, our accountants can help you assemble all the information regarding the assets and liabilities of the deceased loved one. Additionally, we will assist you in the preparation of any personal tax returns that are required up to the date of death and the tax returns that are required to pay any Inheritance Tax that may be required before the grant of Probate can be issued.
Berley accountants will organise everything so that any liabilities and expenses of the estate are paid before distributing the assets. We will also ensure that the assets are distributed to those that are legally entitled to them (this is normally dealt with by the deceased’s will). We will liaise with any wealth management advisors you may have or, as this is also a service we provide, can assist you in investing the assets.
How much does our probate service cost?
Berley works on a clear fee structure agreed in advance. Unlike solicitors and banks that traditionally charge on a percentage of the assets, we charge on a time basis. For more advice on probate or for extra information on how Berley's probate service can help, give us a call today at 020 7788 8261 or email us at email@example.com.
Berley Chartered Accountants are licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to carry out non-contentious Probate in England and Wales.