About Wills and Probate

This is for executing a will, under English law and does not talk about managing a funeral, my experience was with a Co-Op bond, so the funeral was handled outside the estate. This is also assuming the estate requires property sale.

It was originally written in 2004/2005. It will be wrong by now.

The first thing to note is that English, Scottish and US law are all different. If buying books from amazon, keep this in mind. I was ;guided by this book, which was good on probate, but poor on tax. I suppose tax is harder to keep up with.The book has some useful pro-forma letters and most importantly for me covered English law.

The most common process is to apply for probate (get public permission to act on behalf of the estate), for which you’ll need to have paid the IHT. To pay the IHT, you need to know the value of the estate. This involves identifying and valuing the assets. The asset holders will not release assets until probate is granted, except for the purpose of paying IHT. If the estate does not have enough cash to pay the bill, the executors may have to borrow the money. The inland revenue give the executors 6 months to pay the IHT before charging interest.

The inland revenue are likely to ask the District Valuer to value a property. These people aren’t very good (they’re the people who value property for the poll and council taxes) and have no incentive apart from their professionalism to act fairly to the estate.

Having obtained probate, collect the assets, sell any goods (which in the case of the house may involve revising the IHT liability), pay all executors expenses and then grant the money to the legatees. Anyway, here’s my filing structure.

  • Probate i.e Death Certificates, PA1, Fees, Meetings and Grants
  • Assets
    • House – Valuation including DVO correspondence if required, Sale & Council Tax
    • Others – Tax (i.e. Income tax), Bank, Building Society, Unit Trusts, Share Accounts etc, Pensions and Insurance, including life, house contents and other property (e.g.Car), association subscriptions e.g. AA
  • Debts
    • IHT
    • Others – Excluding Utilities
  • Management
    • Cash, includes correspondence re opening and closing the account. NB the closure letter is likely to be the closing statement of account/disposal statement.
    • Expenses – Others e.g. PA1
    • Expenses – Utilities, include House Insurances, Electricity, Water, Gas, Phone
    • Other Notifications
  • Settlement
    • Any correspondence to varying the will, or valuing assets that are disposed of to legatees, and the final closure statement, if different from the bank account closure letters

One other gotcha, is that BT don’t recognise probate debt. They cut dead people off. If property (more important in a business context) requires continued phone services, then someone needs to manage this contract.

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