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6 key jobs when dealing with probate and an estate

View profile for Amy Nelson
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If you are dealing with the administration of the estate of someone who has died, you will have a long list of tasks to carry out. We take a look at some of the key jobs involved in dealing with probate and estate administration. 

An executor or administrator (personal representative) will be responsible for winding up the affairs of the person who has passed away (the deceased). This is often very time-consuming and personal representatives may want to consider asking a probate solicitor to take on the job if they only have limited time to devote to dealing with the estate themself.

Some of the key steps are:

1. Valuing the estate and securing the deceased’s assets

The first job is to value the estate as accurately as possible. This means taking into account all of the deceased’s assets, including property, cars, savings, investments and valuable items such as furniture and jewellery.

Debts such as mortgages and credit card balances also need to be valued. Once all values are known, this should allow the personal representative to calculate whether Inheritance Tax will be payable.

Personal representatives should also take steps to protect the estate’s assets, for example, by making sure that property and cars are adequately insured.


2. Calculating and paying Inheritance Tax

Working out whether Inheritance Tax is due, and calculating what might be payable is not always straightforward. There are several exemptions, allowances and reliefs available and depending upon what gifts the deceased has made during their lifetime, or how their estate is to be divided after their death, tax might be charged on a sliding scale or at a different rate.

Most people are aware that there is a basic threshold up to which an estate will not usually pay Inheritance Tax (the Nil Rate Band), however the amount of tax-free allowance available can vary and depends upon whether the deceased was married or widowed, if they made gifts during their lifetime, and even whether or not they owned property and had children.

The personal representative is tasked with making sure the correct amount of tax is paid and that all available allowances, exemptions and reliefs are applied for. Therefore, it is important to ensure they have fully considered all that might be available. Personal representatives often seek advice from a qualified lawyer in order to ensure they are not paying more tax than is necessary.


3. Applying for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration

Unless the deceased’s estate is particularly small and/or straightforward, the personal representative will often need to apply for a Grant of Probate. This is the document that confirms the executor’s legal authority to collect in and wind up the estate. If the deceased did not leave a Will, then the person who is going to take on the estate administration (the administrator) should apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, which has more or less the same function.

The grant application process can be straightforward, and in most cases the grant can be applied for online. However, it is important to ensure that all details entered in the application are correct, otherwise this could result in the application being rejected by the court, and the process having to be started again from scratch. Many personal representatives appoint a solicitor or other legal professional to assist with the grant application, to ensure that the details are ‘right-first-time’ and to avoid unnecessary delay to the process.


4. Collecting in the assets and clearing the estate’s debts

Once the Probate Registry issues the grant, the personal representative can take steps to collect the estate assets and settle any debts and other liabilities. Personal representatives are also responsible for ensuring all Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax that might be due for the period from the date of death have been properly assessed and paid. If this is not dealt with correctly, the executor or administrator may end up having to settle these liabilities themselves from their own personal funds.


5. Identifying beneficiaries

One of the personal representative’s duties is to ensure they identify any beneficiaries of the estate, and that each beneficiary's entitlement is passed to them. Executors or administrators of an estate can remain personally liable for any mistakes they make that cause a loss to the estate, or if they pay funds to someone who should not be receiving them. It is important that personal representatives take the necessary steps to confirm who the beneficiaries are and that they are entitled to receive any money from the estate.

There are searches that can be carried out and notices that can be placed to help protect personal representatives. Many executors and administrators often opt to carry these out for peace of mind and certainty.


6. Preparing estate accounts

Once the debts have been cleared and assets collected, estate accounts should be prepared. These need to include full details of all the funds in the estate. Beneficiaries will often want to see the accounts to ensure that they are satisfied the personal representative has dealt with everything properly. Beneficiaries may often raise queries on the accounts and so it is important to ensure all details are recorded fully, and in a straightforward manner for the beneficiaries to understand.


Contact us

If you are the executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate and would like some assistance in dealing with the administration, please contact us by email at or by phone on 01252 733 770. We will be happy to arrange an appointment for you to discuss the details of the estate with one of our expert probate and estate administration lawyers at our Farnham office. We can then provide details of the next steps in the process.