Probate and Estate Administration
Probate is the legal process that has to be followed after someone dies leaving a Will. In certain cases where there is a property or where financial services organisations require it, a Grant of Probate may be needed. In Scotland this is called a Grant of Confirmation. This is a legal document issued by the Court which authorises the executors to carry out their duties. If no Will has been left then this document is known as a Grant of Letters of Administration.
If a Grant of Probate or Letters of Admininstration is required, there are three steps to obtaining the Grant and completing an estate – if the estate is straightforward you may be able to complete all three steps yourself. Alternatively, you could complete steps 1 and 3 yourself, leaving the more difficult part of obtaining the actual Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to a legal professional or have a lawyer act on your behalf to deal with the administration of the entire estate.
Step 1. Finding out the assets, liabilities and the terms of the Will.
This is finding out the terms of the Will and precisely what the deceased person owned and also owed in liabilities. In order to complete the probate forms you must obtain accurate valuations.
Step 2. Obtaining the Grant of Probate
This can be complicated because it involves the preparation of two documents. The first is the Probate Court questionnaire and the second is the HM Revenue & Customs Inheritance Tax form which is required even when no inheritance tax is payable. You also have to attend the Probate Registry to be interviewed. The purpose of the interview is to prove to an official that the information provided on the forms are true to the best of your knowledge and belief.
Attending the probate registry to be interviewed and filling in the forms can be difficult. You may find the services of a lawyer to be more preferable.
Step 3. Collecting in the assets, paying the liabilities and distributing the estate.
This part consists of gathering in all of the various assets, paying off the liabilities and then dividing and distributing those assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the Will. You will also have to deal with outstanding tax affairs and provide each beneficiary with an estate account.