Dealing with money matters is often the last thing you want to be doing when a loved one or close friend has recently died, but unfortunately it is something that has to be addressed. Some financial matters are more pressing than others and time delays can lead to unnecessary additional complications, and cost.
What should I do first?
Provided that you have registered the death and taken care of the funeral arrangements, the next thing you should do is ascertain whether or not there is a Last Will & Testament, then make an approximation as to the size of the estate (‘estate’ is simply the legal term used to describe all the assets of the deceased). This includes property, savings, shares, jewellery and everything else of value owned by the deceased.
- If there is a legally valid Will the estate will be dealt with according to that document.
- If there is not a valid Will then the estate will pass according to strict rules laid down by law.
- The size of the estate will determine what course of action you may need to take next.
- If the sum of all assets is under £5,000 you are likely to be able to deal with the various institutions without much formality. Contact the organisations concerned and they will guide you through the process.
If the sum of all of the assets is over £5,000 you will may need to obtain a Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (if there is no Will). Applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration are much the same. A Will should indicate who should apply for the Grant of Probate and the law lays down who may apply for Letters of Administration. Your local Probate Registry will be able to guide you as to who should apply if there is no Will.
Every situation is different and every set of circumstances is different. A lot depends upon the experience of those who are dealing with matters and upon the composition of the assets; for example if a business is involved, or a property abroad, or the setting up of specific trusts, or if there is no Will then you would be well advised to seek professional help.
How should I do it?
You could make a personal application. This involves contacting the local Probate Registry and dealing with everything yourself. If you, or the deceased, have a family solicitor who is familiar with the family affairs, you may wish to seek their assistance.
Most banks (but not all) also offer probate assistance. Caution should be exercised here because banks have been widely criticised in the press for being slow and expensive. Banks have been known to ‘cherry pick’ and only take on cases that are fairly simple, yet still provide them with opportunities for charging large fees.
Alternatively, a tailor made solution is available through DeedSafe Probate Services. The Company offers a home visit service and a guaranteed and highly competitive fixed fee tariff, agreed in advance. They will then deal with all probate matters relating to the estate, taking the burden from your shoulders entirely.