A Helpful Guide to Probate

July 20th 2016

When you have to face the sadness of a death in the family, you then have to address all the paperwork and arrangements that must follow.  This is not easy, especially at a time when you may not be feeling up to it.  We hope that (whether or not you then decide to use our services) the following will be of assistance:

1.    The House

If it is yours, can you remember where the title documents are?  Don’t worry if you can’t because, provided your title is registered, we can undertake a brief search to check who owns the house and how.  Please remember to check that the building and contents are insured adequately, and alert the insurance company if the house is now unoccupied.  There will be extra requirements for continued limited cover, and possibly a premium increase for an empty property. 

2.    Funeral Bill

You may be asked to pay a deposit, but you do not have to pay the balance personally.  If you ask the funeral undertaker to send the bill direct to the deceased’s bank, this can be settled direct from that.  Of course you are entitled to claim repayment of the deposit (if any) from the deceased’s funds. 

3.    Death Certificates

Order enough i.e. one for each bank, building society, life company and company registrar unless you want to wait and reuse these.  Photocopies are not acceptable. 

4.    National Savings, Department of Work and Pensions, and HM Revenue and Customs

You can elect to have these organisations notified when you go to register the death.  This is a very good idea, as it saves you some extra letters or telephone calls.  Premium Bonds can’t be transferred, but can be retained for a year, as they continue to be eligible for prizes for that period. 

5.    Banks and Building Societies

Locate the latest statement for each of these but don’t throw any older ones away yet, unless they are more than 6 years old.  You may need them for Income Tax Return/Repayment Claim purposes.  Batch them into tax years for ease of reference.  Provide each institution with a Death Certificate and they will tell you their requirements for closure, which may include a Grant of probate. 

6.    Share Certificates

Keep these safe, and retain all dividend vouchers for dividends paid within the last six years.  You will need to obtain the values of these holdings.  Company restructuring of capital and merges can lead to uncertainty, so check the size of each holding with the registrar (address shown on the dividend vouchers). 

7.    Life Policies

Even the old penny policies may have some value.  Larger payments can trigger a chargeable event for capital gains tax purposes, which will have to be returned if the deceased was a higher rate income tax payer, so if a life company issues such a certificate, keep it safe.  Retain any references to sums paid out during the term of the policy. 

8.    Occupational Pensions

Keep the annual tax certificates for the period to death and the last six tax years.

9.    Utility Bills and Council Tax

Don’t worry if you can’t access funds immediately to pay these; the providers will wait, and are used to the situation.  If the accounts were joint, have them transferred to your sole name and claim the single occupant’s Council Tax reduction if applicable.  

If there is any indication that you will need a Grant of probate (or Letters of Administration, which is the equivalent if there is no Will) come and see us and we can help you to obtain one.  Receiving papers which have already been ordered and batched certainly helps us, and so reduces our fees.  The exercise may also help you to determine whether or not you need legal assistance.  

For further information on Estate Planning, Wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney contact Julia Routen, Solicitor at Spratt Endicott on 01295 204012 or email jrouten@se-solicitors.co.uk.

*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation.*