When someone dies, the executors have a duty to identify the assets of the estate and assess their value at the date of death (i.e. the market value had they been sold that day). For full information and guidance on probate, see our DIY Probate Kit.
To help you with the probate process, here is a list of the most commonly owned assets in a deceased’s estate and how you need to go about valuing them:
Valuing the deceased’s property
- Obtain as accurate an estimate of the value of the property, by estimating the value yourself or asking an estate agent for an informal valuation.If the deceased owned their own home jointly with another person, only the deceased’s share of the home is treated as part of their estate.
- Notify the mortgage lender, if there is a mortgage on the deceased’s house or flat.
- Find out how much of the mortgage was outstanding at the date of death.
- Is a life assurance or mortgage protection policy linked to the mortgage? Ask if the cover is sufficient to repay the mortgage and if there will be any surplus remaining after repayment.
The deceased’s bank account
- Write to the deceased’s bank (and building society) with a registrar’s copy of the death certificate.
- Inform the bank of the death and instruct them to stop all unpaid cheques, direct debits and standing orders.
- Ask for a list of all deeds, share certificates and other documents held on the deceased’s behalf and the balances on the accounts (including joint accounts) at the date of death, with a separate figure for interest which had been earned on the money to that date, but not credited to the account.
- Ask what interest has been credited to the deceased’s account during the tax year in which they died and whether it was paid net of tax or gross. This information will be needed for the tax return to the date of death.
- Open a bank account in your own name to enable you to pay in cheques for the proceeds of sales of assets of the estate, and to write cheques to discharge liabilities.
Valuing stocks and shares
- Compile a complete list of shareholdings. The share certificates may be at the deceased’s home or with their bank, solicitor or stockbroker.
- Ask a stockbroker for a probate or confirmation valuation.
- Alternatively, make your own valuation by referring to the Stock Exchange Daily Official List (SEDOL) for the day the deceased died. The List is available at public libraries or can be bought from the Publications Section of the Stock Exchange in London.
The deceased’s business interests
- Get any interest in a business valued by the business’ accountant, backed up by a copy of the latest three years’ accounts and a copy of any partnership agreement.
Valuing the car
- Get an accurate valuation from a local garage.
- Alternatively, sell the car on the open market and use the sale price as the value at the date of death.
- An overall valuation is usually acceptable for jewellery. But if an individual piece is worth more than £500, get it valued separately.
Works of art
- Find out the value of a particular painting or sculpture by seeing if it is separately listed on the deceased’s home contents insurance policy.
- An art dealer can give a valuation of any works of art. Make it clear that you are asking for the price it would fetch at auction at the date of death, not the value for which it should be insured.
- Make a fair estimate of the total value of the deceased’s possessions (such as furniture and personal effects), based on what they might fetch if sold second-hand or, if appropriate, at auction at the date of death.
- Give separate details, and preferably formal valuations, of individual items worth over £500, as well as values of items such as vehicles, boats and aircraft, antiques, works of art or collections.
- In the case of a husband and wife, household possessions are generally treated as being held jointly between them, so their total value should be divided by two to give the value of the deceased’s share.
- Complete Form NSA 904 and send it to the address given on the form for that type of account.
- For National Savings certificates, write to National Savings asking for a letter confirming the value of the certificates held by the deceased at the date of death. In England and Wales, the Probate Registry will need to see this letter.
- Notify the Premium Bonds Office of the holder’s death. A form for completion is available at www.nsandi.com, or contact National Savings & Investments on 0500 007 007.
Outstanding salary or pension payments
- If the deceased was employed at the time of death, send a letter to their employer notifying them of the death and asking whether any salary or other payments are outstanding.
- If the deceased belonged to a union or trade association, there may be a death benefit payable to the deceased’s family.
- If the deceased was receiving a pension, notify the scheme administrator or pension provider of the death and outstanding pension payments claimed.
Life insurance and pension policy
- Write to the life insurance company or pension provider, enclosing a copy of a registrar’s copy of the death certificate.
- Ask what sum is payable on the death and whether it was written in trust for any named person.
Taxes and bills
- Inform the deceased’s tax inspector of the death.
Social security payments
- If the deceased was receiving a state retirement pension, notify the local Department for Work and Pensions office of the death.
- Send the pension book with your letter inquiring whether there are any pension payments uncollected by the deceased.
- Stop any other state benefits, if appropriate, and claim any outstanding payments due up to the date of death.
- Report to the Probate Registry or HMRC the value in sterling of property owned by the deceased outside the UK or debts owed to the deceased by any resident outside the UK.
For further information and expert guidance on valuing the assets and debts of an estate for probate, read Lawpack’s DIY Probate Kit.