Dealing with the probate process in the UK can be a complex and emotionally challenging task, particularly during a time of grieving.

To help you navigate this process smoothly, we’ve compiled an essential probate checklist. This checklist will guide you through the key steps and considerations involved in probate.

Notify Relevant Parties

Inform relevant parties about the death, including close family members, friends, and the deceased person’s employer (if applicable).

Obtain the Death Certificate and Register the Death

Before anything else, you will need to obtain the death certificate. You’ll need multiple certified copies as you progress through the probate process. The death certificate is required to formally register the death.

The registration procedure varies depending on the circumstances and the place of death and is usually the responsibility of a family member of the deceased. Regardless, all deaths must be officially registered by the Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths within the district where the death occurred.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the general guideline is to complete the registration within 5 days. However, in cases where a coroner is part of the registration process, there may be occasional delays.

Locate the Will

If there’s a will, locate the original document. It’s often kept with the deceased person’s important papers or with their solicitor.

Contact beneficiaries named in the will and provide them with information about their entitlements.

Arrange the Funeral

Make funeral arrangements in accordance with the deceased person’s wishes or, if not specified, in consultation with close family members. Funeral directors will provide guidance and assistance in every aspect of organising the funeral.

Identify the Executor of the Will

If there is a will, identify the executor named in the will. The executors are responsible for handling the deceased’s affairs.

In the absence of a will, and after confirming this through a will search, the hierarchy as determined by the rules of intestacy determines the order in which relatives can apply to administer the estate.

Secure Any Assets or Property of the Deceased

Take steps to secure the deceased person’s property and assets to prevent theft or damage, especially if the home of the deceased will become empty. This includes their home, vehicles, and personal belongings.

Ensure any post is redirected to one person to represent the deceased by obtaining a form from the Post Office. Be sure to check for any insurance policies that will need to be cancelled as policies will become invalid upon death.

Value the Estate

Determine the total value of the deceased person’s assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal possessions.

Pay Debts, Probate Fees and Inheritance Tax

Settle any outstanding debts, including bills, loans, and funeral expenses. Calculate and pay any inheritance tax owed to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You will need to fill out a IHT400 form if the estate is subject to Inheritance Tax.

In cases where there is no will, complicated estates, or when the departed person possesses assets overseas, it is advisable to seek legal advice.

Executors apply for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration

If there’s a will, apply for a Grant of Probate. If there’s no will, apply for Letters of Administration. These legal documents grant you the authority to administer the estate.

Receiving the Probate Grant

Once you’ve obtained the grant and settled any applicable Inheritance Tax, you are then able to initiate the process of gathering funds from the estate.

Following this, you can proceed to settle any outstanding debts owed by the estate and distribute the estate’s assets in accordance with the terms of the will or the legal rules of intestacy.

Distribute the Estate

Once debts and taxes are paid, distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries according to the will or intestacy rules.

In order of priority, the following should be paid as follows:

  1. Funeral expenses, provided they haven’t been settled already.
  2. Any tax obligations.
  3. Creditors, which includes loans, mortgages, and any outstanding debts.
  4. In cases where a will is in place and no creditors have asserted claims against the estate, beneficiaries become eligible for payment.

Keep Detailed Records

Maintain accurate records of all financial transactions, correspondence, and actions taken during the probate process.

Report to HMRC and Other Authorities

Ensure you comply with all legal requirements, including reporting income, capital gains, and other tax-related matters to HMRC.

Finalise the Estate

Once all assets have been accounted for and all debts and taxes have been settled, it’s time to compile the final estate accounts. These accounts must receive the approval and signatures of both yourself and the primary beneficiaries.

Once the accounts are mutually agreed upon, the remaining funds held in the personal representative’s bank account can be distributed, and the account can be subsequently closed.

Take Time to Review and Update Your Own Estate Plans

Take this opportunity to review and update your own will and estate plans in light of the experience and knowledge gained during the probate process.

Probate can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but this essential probate checklist is designed to help you navigate it with greater confidence and clarity.

Remember that each estate is unique, and seeking guidance from legal and financial professionals can provide invaluable support in ensuring that you fulfil all legal obligations properly.

Here at robinson+co, we’re here to help you navigate the probate process and estate administration with compassion and support. Get in touch with our Probate team today – simply call us on 01900 603 623 today and find out how we can help you.