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What is Probate?

by Byrne Anderson
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Understanding Probate

When someone passes away, there are very strict rules about who can handle the deceased’s estate. This makes perfect sense, as the majority of us certainly wouldn’t want a stranger or some distant relative we’ve not spoken to in years meddling with our personal affairs.

Probate gives a named person legal authority to handle the estate of the deceased. But what does it entail and is probate always needed? A Kent accountant for probate services can certainly help you out. But let’s take a closer look at the details.

Probate Explained

Not everyone’s estate is the same. While those who know they are dying might have tied up loose ends, gifted money to relatives in advance or sold property, the result of an unexpected death might be much more complex, with absolutely nothing in order. Either way, there still needs to be someone in charge to make sure everything is dealt with fairly and correctly.

Probate duties revolve around administering a dead person’s entire estate including their money, assets and possessions. Probate ensures that the relevant taxes are calculated and paid, all debts owed from or to the estate are settled and that the net assets are distributed according to the Will. If the deceased has named an executor of affairs in their Will, a Grant of Probate should be granted swiftly. If there’s no Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration will be issued. This is an official court document that proves you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate, allowing you to do necessary tasks such as close accounts and sell property.

As a side note, things can become rather messy if there’s no Will, so you might want to brace yourself for some turbulent family affairs. This is because the estate is divided in accordance to very specific intestacy rules. These may, or may not, be in line with the deceased’s wishes but must be followed, nonetheless. That’s why it’s advisable for everyone to make a Will.

Is Probate Definitely Needed?

From registering the death and organising the funeral to sorting out probate, there’s a lot to think about when someone passes away. But is probate definitely needed? Well, this all depends on the size of an estate. Many banks will release funds of up to £5,000 without the need for probate, but this can differ between financial institutions.

Similarly, probate might not be needed to sell a property if it’s simply being transferred to a surviving joint owner. That said, probate will always be required to sell a property owned in the deceased’s sole name. This is actually something worth thinking carefully about if you’re a property owner yourself and want things to be easy when you pass.

To put the importance of financial planning into perspective, you should be aware that jointly owned assets can be passed to surviving owners without probate. But if you own a property as ‘tenants in common’ with your husband, for example, his share will not automatically pass to you, but will instead go to whoever is legally entitled to inherit.

Legal jargon can be complicated, as can the finer details. So, don’t hesitate to seek probate help and assistance by contacting Kent tax advisors today.

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