After someone dies, the law says that someone (a nominated person) must find out all about the assets and what is owed by the deceased. This sets in motion a process of administering the estate, which is known as probate of letters or administration, depending upon whether the deceased left a valid will, or not.

Where the deceased leaves a last will and testament

In a will, the deceased will have nominated executors, which are people who are charged legally, to administer the estate, unless they refuse. An executor will apply for a grant of probate from the Probate Registry. The executor(s) will then draw up a balance sheet listing the assets and the debts owned by the person, on the day that they died. This process is often far quicker than where there is no will.

Where there is no will

When a person dies without having completed a legally valid will, they are said to die intestate and this begins a process which is more complicated because a close relation or a nominated person will have to apply for letters of administration, which is the court (and applied court fees) overseeing the probate route.

Where a person leaves an estate of less than £5000 or if their financial dealings were jointly owned with someone else – probate or administration can often be avoided, but some banks may be awkward and require the full process to be seen through before they will release monies.

Where you leave a property, land, some stocks and shares and insurance policies (not in trust), the full process will need to be carried out to define the person’s assets and debts.

Whoever is responsible for dealing with the deceased’s estate, will have to calculate whether inheritance tax is due to the government and make that payment within a defined term.

Probate is usually much quicker than the administration route, but the timescales are different for each case because it depends upon the responses of banks, building societies, insurance companies and government departments, before an estate can be completed.

Probate and inheritance tax advice specifically for you

Probate is often charged as a percentage of the estate or it can be agreed as a fixed figure, although solicitors prefer the former. Where you wish to meet with an expert who can take on and complete the complicated process of probate, please ask and we will put you in touch with someone who lives in your area of the country. Where you decide to go it alone, inheritance tax advice can be useful in making the most of allowances that the government offers at this time. will not meet with you to discuss Probate and Inheritance tax (giving this advice is not within our remit), but we will introduce you to professional experts who deal with these matters every day of their working lives.

Completing probate yourself is often possible, but where an estate is complicated and difficult to assess, it will take over your whole life for at least a year unless you involve a professional.