Probate and other matters

This is taken from an article from the Guardian by Patrick Collinson - 6th June 2020; 5 steps to deal with a will and estate

1. Find the will. Once somebody's death has been registered and the funeral arranged, the first thing to do is to locate the person's will (or confirm that they did not make one). If you cannot find one in their home, contact the person's solicitor, accountant, or bank to see if any of them holds it. You can check whether a will is stored with the Principal Registry of the Family Division. Ask for a search to be made of the safe custody wills register.

2. Contact banks and financial providers The executors named in the will, or the people who will inherit if there is no will (called intestacy), should start assembling financial information. You should notify banks, building societies, mortgage lenders, credit card providers, and insurance companies. Your first step should be which allows you to notify several banks and building societies at the same time. Then go to the Tell Us Once service, which lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. You will be able to notify HMRC, DWP, DVLA the Passport Office and so on in a few clicks. Co-op Legal Services this week also launched a bereavement notification service, which apart from help in notifying banks, also gives guidance on closing social media accounts and informing utility and insurance providers.

3. Estimate and Report the estate's value The executor needs to assess the amount in savings accounts, pensions, shares and ISAs and whether the dead person's employer owed them wages. Debts such as credit cards must be paid off. If the mortgage lender requires interest payments to continue while you are applying for probate the executor can pay these bills and reclaim the money from the estate once they have obtained probate. The executor should check if there are any payments from life insurance policies.

4. Begin the formal probate process The executor should apply for a grant of probate, which is the legal document that enables you to access funds, sort finances and share out assets the deceased accumulated. The government website sets out the process and whether you actually have to go through it. According to Step, in England and Wales, there is usually no need to apply for probate if the estate is worth less than £5,000. There is an application fee of £155 for estates over the £5,000 threshold, with a £60 fee added if you apply yourself rather than via a solicitor. Assuming you have obtained an estimate of the estate's value and you have the original will and death certificate, you can begin the probate process online.

Decide whether to use a solicitor, probate brokerage or do it yourself You are under no obligation to use a solicitor but if you do, don't automatically sign up with the family firm, or the bank, as the charges can be high. Most firms operate hourly rates or percentage charging systems. Law firms are required to disclose their fees online. Probate brokerages, such as Final Duties, will find you a solicitor from its approved panel that will undertake probate for a fixed fee. Or you can do it yourself. If you want legal help without paying too much, Which? Legal provides a probate service that promises unlimited legal advice and support from its experts at £9 a month, plus a £28 joining fee.