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Hard times ahead for the estate executor ? the problems with Probate

Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be difficult enough, and can be exceptionally challenging for estate executors who find themselves coping with bereavement whilst also making arrangements for the deceased’s estate.

Probate is not simply a case of reading through the Will and handing assets out to their rightful beneficiaries.

For estates worth more than £5,000, unless all assets were held in joint names and are passing to the surviving spouse or civil partner, estate executors will need a grant of representation before banks and financial institutions will allow them to access the deceased’s assets. It can be a long and tedious process and estate executors must make sure that they follow the official procedure.

Before the estate can be valued all assets will need to be identified including bank accounts, vehicles, pensions, life insurance policies and any other belongings of value. Any property owned by the deceased will need to be valued by an Estate Agent or valuer and all financial assets, such as savings and investments, will need to be given a valuation on the date of death.

Mortgages, credit cards, loans and personal debts, and funeral expenses will also need to be accounted for as these will all need to be settled out of the deceased’s estate before any assets can be passed to the beneficiaries.

Once the total worth of the estate has been calculated, Inheritance Tax forms will need to be completed. These will need to be done even if the estate value falls under the £325,000 threshold and there is no tax owed. For estates where the value is less than twice the Inheritance Tax threshold and where 100 per cent of unused Inheritance Tax from a late spouse or civil partner can be transferred to the deceased, only a Return of Estate Information form will need to be completed.

Completed forms will need to go to the Probate Registry and HMRC, the estate executor will then have to pay any Inheritance Tax and also swear an oath before they are issued with a grant of representation and the assets can be released.

Being an estate executor is no simple task. Getting access to the assets can be time consuming, especially if the deceased did not keep sufficient records. But this is only the first hurdle and estate executors must go on to divide the assets amongst beneficiaries. Another lengthy task that can be further complicated by complex family situations and potential Will disputes.

For advice on the Probate process, estate administration and Inheritance Tax, Alexander Astley can be reached at or 01622 689700 or visit