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How does the probate journey work?

When someone close to you dies, the grieving process is combined with the journey that personal representatives and executors must go on to deal with probate. When there’s a will in place, this should be straightforward, but there are still legal duties and responsibilities that you must comply with. Here’s our guide to the probate journey and how we can help.

What does a personal representative need to do to deal with probate?

As a personal representative, your primary responsibility is ensuring that the will’s provisions are carried out. However, this places several legal burdens on your shoulders. If a personal representative doesn’t comply with their legal duties, you could be held personally liable for any mistakes. For example, if you don’t follow the proper steps to identify creditors and they turn up after assets have been distributed, you may have to pay them their share out of your own pocket.

The legal duties

We’ve already mentioned your legal duties, so you’re probably wondering what to do. You need to publish statutory notices in the press to identify debts the estate needs to pay.  You’ll also need to carry out searches to identify all the estate’s assets and trace beneficiaries. A bankruptcy search needs to be done for all beneficiaries and personal representatives. Finally, you must ensure you have obtained tax clearance and had the estate accounts approved by all personal representatives and beneficiaries before distributing any assets.

Talking to other family members

Dealing with probate after a loved one has died can be stressful in itself. It’s even more so if there are arguments within the family about where assets should go. If the will provisions are challenged, you could even find yourself going to court to settle things. You must stay neutral and wait until any claims are dealt with before distributing any assets. Consulting a solicitor can help to prevent disagreements in the first place or handle any disputes.

Paying taxes

It’s been said that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life. Making sure that the proper taxes are paid is an essential step in the probate journey. There may be Inheritance Tax to pay on larger estates. It’s also important to check whether there’s any income tax or Capital Gains Tax to pay to ensure that HMRC doesn’t come looking for money later. There are time limits for tax payments, so it’s vital to deal with this promptly to avoid penalties.

Check if there’s a Will Trust in place

Many people include a trust in their will to allow trustees to manage assets on behalf of others. For example, this could be used if a beneficiary is under 18 and can’t inherit yet. There are rules about how these trusts are administered and whether there’s any tax to pay. It’s easy to overlook a trust if you aren’t familiar with the language, but executors and trustees can be personally liable for mistakes if they get it wrong.

If you’ve been appointed as a personal representative, executor or trustee, it’s important to get legal advice to ensure you follow the correct process and don’t miss anything vital.

For help and support with the probate journey, please get in touch with one of our team.

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