When somebody dies it is usually necessary to apply to the Courts for a Grant of Probate. If there was no will then the application is for a Grant of Letters of Administration. The process is the same but the estate is dealt with under the Rules of Intestacy Intestacy - who inherits if someone dies without a will? - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). One of the main reasons for the requirement to apply for either grant is to see if the Government can claim Inheritance Tax (IHT) from the estate of the deceased person. We all have a tax free amount of at least £325,000 (this can change in the future) and there are other exemptions depending on the circumstances.
Any tax due must be paid within six months after the end of the month in which a person died. A life assurance policy written under trust can be an effective way of covering the tax bill. The trust is provided free of charge by the life assurance company. While you remember - check to see if your existing life assurance policies are already under trust. If not, ask your adviser to arrange it. Policies under trust are not part of your estate and therefore do not count towards your IHT exemptions. Also, the claim will be paid without waiting for Probate to be granted. Do this now, it is important.
The second reason for the current system is to make sure that any will is properly written and valid so that the Executor can start to gather up all the assets and make correct payments to the beneficiaries (after payment of tax, funeral and other debts).
Probate is not likely to be granted in less than two months and can take considerably longer in some cases. Forward planning can make the process faster and easier.
When registering the death it is recommended that you ask the Registrar to set up a link to the Tell Us Once government website at https://www.gov.uk/after-a-death/organisations-you-need-to-contact-and-tell-us-once . This link will notify all government departments in one go without delay.
In addition, you may use the Death Notification Service website at https://www.deathnotificationservice.co.uk/ or phone 0333 207 6574) to notify all the financial institutions that hold assets belonging to the deceased. This is a labour saving service but it does not currently include insurance companies which you should find detailed on the bank statements of the deceased.
If the deceased had assets not exceeding £5,000 it is likely that Probate will not have to be applied for. For more information go to What to do when someone dies: step by step - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Following the issue of the Grant, the Will becomes a public document and both the Will and the Grant can be purchased for a small fee (currently £1.50) from Search probate records for documents and wills (England and Wales) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Apart from the Royal Family, you can look at anybody’s Will if you want to.
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