Q: My best friend has just died and she has named me as executor in her Will. She was married, and didn’t have much property or money. Where do I start? Do I have to take the job? If I do, do I need to appoint a solicitor?

A: If the Will is very straightforward and not much money is involved, you should not require a solicitor and can do probate yourself.

To start the process, you need to go through her paperwork and take a look at the following:

  • Her assets – any investments, pensions or insurance policies which pay out on her death
  • Her property – does she own her own home or is it owned jointly with her husband?
  • Her debts – does she have any? Or does anyone owe her?
  • Tax – does she owe any?

One of your duties as executor is to pay any debts from the estate, as well as find out if anyone owes her estate any money and reclaim the money that is due.

You also need to distribute any gifts to the beneficiaries mentioned in her Will.

If your friend didn’t leave much money and only has a small amount in her accounts, you may be able to gather her money together and pass it to her beneficiaries without obtaining a Grant of Probate.

Most banks will hand over amounts of money under £5,000 without seeing a Grant of Probate, but they may ask you to sign an indemnity to protect them from risk.

But if your friend has more than £5,000 in one account, or an insurance policy on which the estate can claim, or a pension, you will need a Grant of Probate.

A Grant of Probate is a document that gives you the authority to manage the estate. Find out more on what a Grant of Probate is and how to apply for a Grant of Probate.

You need to complete various probate forms in order to apply for a Grant of Probate. Lawpack’s DIY Probate Kit provides you with all the probate forms you need, plus expert guidance on how to fill in the forms.

These forms must be sent to your local Probate Registry and you will need to attend an interview. The Grant of Probate will then be sent to you.

As executor, you must also consider Inheritance Tax. If the estate is less than £325,000, then Inheritance Tax will not have to be paid on the estate. However, you will have to complete a probate form, regardless of whether Inheritance Tax is applicable or not.

Find out if Inheritance Tax is due on your estate.

If all these duties seem incredibly daunting, then Lawpack is here to help. We publish a DIY Probate Kit, which guides you through the process. Alternatively, we have teamed up with probate experts Kings Court Trust who offer a Probate Assist service, where they will complete the forms for you and all at a fixed price.

If you just have any questions and need some reassurance, then call Kings Court Trust’s Probate Advice Line. They offer FREE, non-pressurised advice on 0800 975 7877.

Finally, if you really don’t want to get involved in doing probate at all, you can appoint someone else to act as your attorney or renounce your role as executor by completing a form of renunciation.


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Published on: September 18, 2012