Applying for a Grant of Probate
After the death of an individual, it is important to sort out the affairs of their estate as quickly as possible. If they have left a will, they will almost certainly have named an executor; that is, someone who they intended to take responsibility for the estate. If you are an executor, there are several steps that you need to take in order for this to be possible.
Legal RightAs an executor, you will require legal ratification of your right to take control of the deceased individual's assets. This is called a Grant of Probate, and must be granted before any other action is taken on your part. Many executors enlist the help of a solicitor to carry out the application process for them, but there is often a fairly hefty charge for this service. It is perfectly possible to apply yourself; it is a simple process, which is outlined below.
The forms that you will be required to complete will vary depending on where the individual lived. This article looks at the process for those who lived in England or Wales; Scottish law is covered elsewhere on this site. Furthermore, you will have to fill in different forms depending upon whether or not Inheritance Tax will be payable on the estate. You can find out whether or not this is applicable by reading the article on the topic elsewhere on this site.
Excepted EstatesIf you are applying to take control of an 'excepted estate' (that is, one on which Inheritance Tax will not be payable), you will need to fill in a Probate Application Form (PA1) and the Inheritance Tax form IHT205. Having done this, you will need to send the completed forms to the appropriate Probate Registry office, along with the fee requested in form PA1. Currently this is £105, if the net estate is over £5000, if it's under this amount it's free. After the forms have been received, you will be asked to attend an interview with a representative of the Probate Office and, all being well; your application will be approved.
If Inheritance Tax is likely to be payable, you will also need to fill in the Probate Summary (form D18). You will also need to complete a different Inheritance Tax form; you will require IHT200 rather than IHT205. After you have done this, you should return D18 and PA1 (not IHT200) to the relevant Probate Office, who will arrange an interview for you to attend. After your interview, you should send the D18 and IHT200 to HM Revenue and Customs, who will work out how much Inheritance Tax must be paid. Once the sum has been paid, HMRC will stamp and return D18 to the Probate Office, who will issue a Grant of Probate to you.
It is worth noting that, if more than one Executor has Been Named in the Will, you can either nominate one individual to carry out the process, or you can apply jointly. If you are taking the latter course of action, you should also note that only a maximum a four people can apply together.