What Is Probate and How Does it Affect You?

If your family member or friend has recently died, you might find yourself in charge of dealing with their estate and assets. It can be an emotional and busy time, but handling their affairs is important.

Taking the time now to learn and understand probate will help for when the time comes to do this for somebody. Probate can be complex, and laws differ in every country, making it more difficult if the deceased has assets spread across the UK and beyond.

Below, we explain what probate is, what it involves and what to do if the individual owns estate outside their country of residence.

What Is Probate?

Probate refers to the grant or permission needed to handle a deceased person’s estate. An estate can include anything owned by the individual, including the following:

  • Property
  • Money in any accounts, including any shares
  • Personal possessions

Once an individual has been granted probate, there are a number of things to do, including:

  • Settling any bills and debts
  • Gathering assets that the individual owns or money in bank accounts
  • Distributing anything as stated in the Will

The individual who handles probate is usually the executor in a Will. If there is no Will, the next of kin will need to apply.

Stamping a legal document

In the UK, individuals will need to apply to the Probate Registry. This can be done online, but some documents will need to be sent to support your application. When applying to the probate registry, you must estimate the value of the estate. If there are no questions or complications, it should be granted within a few months. However, the whole process of handling a deceased’s estate can take up to a year.

Probate in Each Country

Probate differs in every country. This means that if you need a grant of probate because a deceased family member has an estate in a different country (even within the UK), the process can become more complicated.

If you are unsure and need assistance, there is value in hiring a probate lawyer to help you. Although this will cost you extra money, it can make the process easier during what can be a very emotional time. If the estate is particularly complex, a lawyer with knowledge of probate law is a huge asset.

What Is Fast-Track Probate?

You might hear this term if you need to organise probate in Jersey for somebody who had an estate on the island but resided in the UK, Isle of Man or Guernsey. For example, if the deceased had property in Jersey but lived in England, you can fast track a probate application in Jersey if you already have a grant of probate from the UK. This will be needed alongside the death certificate and correspondence about the estate owned in Jersey (including its current value).

To navigate Jersey law, it’s recommended to hire an experienced probate lawyer on the island. Many probate lawyers in Jersey will have experience dealing with the estates of those domiciled elsewhere.

A calculator and money

What Does Probate Cost?

Last month, the government announced an increase in probate fees in England and Wales. The new charges will come into effect in April 2019. It means estates worth less than £50,000 won’t be subject to fees, while those worth over £2 million will be subject to fees totalling nearly £6,000.

In the UK, you will also need to pay any associated inheritance tax. In Jersey, you will need to pay Stamp duty, the amount of which depends on the cost of the estate. As each country varies in terms of probate law, you will always need to check for any associated fees and taxes to pay.

The whole process can be stressful and drawn out. If you find yourself struggling, there are bereavement charities available to talk to you and provide support during your time of need.

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