How to apply for probate yourself

If the responsibility of dealing with an estate rests with you, you may need to apply for probate to get the legal right to deal with the deceased’s affairs.

You can learn more about the probate process itself and how the presence or absence of a will can affect what you need to in the articles below.

Can I apply for probate myself?

You can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Applying for probate involves much more than completing an application form. Any mistakes could lead to significant consequences for yourself, the estate, and the estate’s beneficiaries.

Rather than going over the process of applying for probate – which you can learn more about from the links above, let’s look at what applying for probate entails and why you might want to consider instructing a probate professional.

What does probate involve?

While people talk about probate in the context of applying for a grant of probate, the probate process itself is that of dealing with the estate in its entirety.

Valuing the estate

The first thing you need to do is value the estate, which will help you discover if you need to pay any Inheritance Tax.

To create an accurate estimate of the deceased’s estate, you’ll need to know about their financial situation, any property they owned, if they had any other investments or assets, and their personal possessions.

The estate’s value will determine how you report it and whether there is Inheritance Tax to pay.

How long it will take you to value an estate will depend on its complexity. If the deceased owned their property with no mortgage and their only assets were their savings, you could probably value it in minutes. In contrast, if an estate is large or complex – with various assets and debts or with assets written into trusts – it might take you months to value it.

If there’s Inheritance Tax to pay, you will need to:

  • Provide full details of the estate and how you have valued each asset
  • Submit the relevant Inheritance Tax forms within a year of the person’s death
  • Start paying Inheritance Tax by the end of the sixth month after the person’s death. You can start making Inheritance Tax payments before you have confirmed an estate’s valuation and then decide whether you wish to pay in instalments or a lump sum later.

There are also specific circumstances under which you may need to provide full details of the deceased’s estate even if no Inheritance Tax is due.

Our probate specialists can help you with every aspect of the process, including finalising an accurate estimation of the estate’s value. Contact us here to get started with valuing an estate for probate.

Paying Inheritance Tax

You will need to pay an estate’s Inheritance Tax bill – or at least make the first Inheritance Tax payment – before getting a grant of probate.

If you don’t have access to the deceased’s bank account or other assets, you may need to make a payment yourself and subsequently reclaim the appropriate amount from the estate. If an estate is complex and it will take time to sell or cash-in specific assets, you can pay an estate’s Inheritance Tax bill in instalments over up to 10 years.

Our probate specialists will help you calculate how much Inheritance Tax you should pay as your first instalment and guide you through the entire process if you’re dealing with a complex estate. Contact us here to get started with applying for probate.

Keeping estate records

Even if there is no Inheritance Tax to pay and the deceased left a relatively simple estate, you’ll still need to keep accurate estate records. Estate records include any accounts you have used to manage the deceased’s finances and details of how you have valued all assets within an estate.

Keeping these records is vital, as should any of the estate’s beneficiaries object to your management of the estate, you will need accurate records to justify the decisions you have made and demonstrate how you came to your valuation of the estate and specific assets.

These records will also prove helpful should HMRC wish to investigate the estate to ensure you valued it accurately and weren’t trying to avoid paying Inheritance Tax.

Our probate specialists will help you keep accurate estate records that demonstrate how you’ve valued and managed the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes and the law. Contact us here to get started with the entire probate process.

Distributing the estate

You might think that distributing the estate is easy, especially if you’ve had to take time valuing the estate and paying inheritance tax. After all, if the deceased left a will with clear instructions, you know what you have to do. Likewise, if someone dies without leaving a will, the rules of intestacy are clear about who should inherit, and the rules governing who can apply for probate in this situation mean you’ll be one of the inheritors.

However, even a well-written will can include complex instructions. At the same time, the rules of intestacy may lead to different outcomes depending on the estate’s value. If you haven’t valued the estate correctly, you could find yourself distributing it incorrectly, too.

What are the potential pitfalls of applying for probate myself?

There are several potential pitfalls of applying for probate and administering an estate yourself.

The most significant are:

  • Leaving inheritors liable for capital gains tax unnecessarily if you incorrectly value property or other assets
  • Not valuing the estate correctly, leading to unnecessarily paying Inheritance Tax or not paying Inheritance Tax when you need to pay it
  • Not fully understanding the instructions in the will or the rules of intestacy, and thus distributing the estate incorrectly

These actions could leave you facing legal action and a hefty financial bill, so it’s always best to use professional probate specialists if in doubt about any aspect of these processes and legalities.

If you need to get probate to administer an estate, get in touch

At LawPlus Solicitors, our team of probate specialists understands that the death of a loved one is an incredibly difficult time. If you’re looking for help with valuing an estate and applying for probate, we’re here to help make the process as smooth and hassle-free as possible. Contact us here to get started.

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