Gemma is an experienced Chartered Legal Executive with over 25 years of working within solicitors firms. As an expert in her field, she often gets asked for her advice on Wills and Probate. To help answer questions you may have, we have asked her some of the most frequently asked questions about Wills and Probate.
1) Do I need a will?
Everybody should at least consider if they need a Will. Even if you are married, don’t assume that your surviving spouse will receive your entire estate. Depending on the value of your assets, your estate could be shared between your spouse, children, or parents. Equally, if your have children, you definitely need a Will, as if you die without a Will, where will they live?
2) What is an executor and how do I choose one?
The Executor is the person or persons you are nominating to collect in all your assets, pay any liabilities, any inheritance tax if this is applicable, and then distribute your assets in accordance with your Will. If you do not leave a Will, the intestacy rules will nominate who will undertake this role. You can choose anyone over the age of 18 years old.
3) What is probate?
Probate is the process that the Executor follows in order to distribute the assets in accordance with the Will, as set out in point 2. The Executor needs to apply for Probate by declaring to HMRC whether any inheritance is due, and sending in a Statement of Truth the Probate Registry. The Executor will need full details of the assets and liabilities of the deceased.
4) Do I need to get a grant of probate?
Generally, if you have assets worth more than £5,000 your Executors will need to apply for the Grant of Probate. The Executor will find when they contact the relevant organisations where the deceased held assets, they will advise the Executor they want the Grant of Probate before they will release the assets.
5) Should I divide my estate into amounts or percentages for each person in my Will?
That depends on what the Testator wants. One option may suit one, and the other option may suit another. It all depends on what they are leaving their beneficiaries, i.e. the same amount or different amounts. Some Testators may want leave their grandchildren a gift of £1,000 each, rather than a percentage of their estate.
6) How do I contest a Will?
You would need to make a Court application. There are certain people who could try and make a claim against an estate, if they can show that your Will has not reasonably provided for them. Such person could be your spouse/ex spouse, your child, or someone who you were financial supporting immediately before your death. The Court will assess a claim.
7) How do I reduce inheritance tax?
Giving assets away during your lifetime to reduce the size of your estate. If you are married then leaving your estate to your spouse or to charity has inheritance tax benefits. You can also put liquid assets into trust to reduce inheritance tax.
8) What do we do if there is no Will?
You will need to work out who would be the appropriate person to apply to be the Administrator (as opposed to Executor) and who the beneficiaries would be under the Intestacy rules.
9) Do I need a solicitor for probate?
Not always. If the estate is small and there are joint assets and a surviving spouse, then probate can be straightforward.
10) How long does probate take?
That depends whether it is a taxable estate or not. I have recently made an application for probate and the application has been with the probate registry for nearly two months. In taxable estates, the tax, or at least the first instalment, will need to be paid before the Probate Registry release the Grant of Probate.
If you have any questions for our expert Gemma, ask her on The Outsourcing Way Crisis Clinic.