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Once Probate Has Been Granted, What Happens Next?

Understanding the probate process is vital when dealing with the death of a loved one. Here, our experts detail the procedures and processes that happen after probate has been granted.

In the wake of losing a loved one, navigating the complexities of probate can often feel like an overwhelming addition to an already stressful time. One of the key parts of this process is what happens after probate has been granted. 

This helpful guide will explain the process and offer insight into the important steps once probate has been granted and how to navigate them. We will discuss the role of the Executor, and any potential pitfalls you might face. 

If you have any questions we have not answered, our expert Wills, Trusts & Probate team is happy to speak to you regarding your query and provide the legal services you need. You can contact us by completing the enquiry form below or by calling 0151 666 9090.

When Is Probate Granted?

Probate is the legal process that ensures a deceased person’s estate is distributed according to their will or, in the absence of a valid will, according to the laws of intestacy. It involves an executor (who is named in the person's will) verifying the will’s authenticity, calculating the value of the estate, paying any debts or taxes and ultimately administering the distribution of the estate.

Obtaining probate involves the executor submitting an application to the Probate Registry, accompanied by the deceased's will, a copy of their death certificate and an accurate account of their estate. This application process typically begins after the executor has gathered any necessary documents and details about the deceased's assets, liabilities, and beneficiaries. They must estimate the value of the estate and calculate any Inheritance Tax liability - then, the executor can apply for a Grant of Probate.


What Happens After Probate Is Granted? 

After probate is granted by the Probate Registry, the executor of the will has the legal authority to proceed with administering the deceased’s estate. This administration process involves several key steps:

1. Collecting and Securing the Deceased's Assets

After the grant of probate, the executor needs to gather all of the estate's assets, including money from bank accounts, property, and personal belongings. They must keep them secure and ensure their initial valuation was accurate. If there is a chance that the value of the estate's assets exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold, the estate must be valued accurately to properly calculate the taxes owed.

2. Paying Off Debts and Taxes

Before any distribution, the executor must settle any outstanding debts owed by the estate. This might include funeral expenses, unpaid utility bills, and loans. In some cases, this will include a mortgage, and a property sale may need to take place before this can be paid off. However, the value of the mortgage will be calculated among the estate's debts for tax purposes.

3. Addressing Tax Implications

Depending on the estate's size and the nature of the assets, the executor may need to manage Inheritance Tax liabilities. The total estate value is calculated by adding up the value of all of its assets and taking away any debts or liabilities the deceased owed. Capital Gains Tax may be owed on the sale of any property or shares. This means that the executor will need to bear in mind these tax matters throughout the probate process.

4. Selling property or other assets

Any assets that are not named as specific gifts must be sold, and any taxes paid, before their value can be distributed according to the terms of the will.

5. Distributing Specific Legacies and Bequests 

Before the general distribution of the estate, specific legacies (defined items or amounts of money left to specific people) must be handled according to the will’s instructions.

6. Distributing the Estate to Beneficiaries

Once all debts and taxes are cleared, and specific gifts have been given to the relevant beneficiaries the executor can distribute the remaining assets according to the will’s instructions. 

7. Preparing Estate Accounts

Executors are also required to prepare detailed accounts of the estate's administration, showing all income received, expenses paid out, and distributions made to beneficiaries. They should keep track of these details throughout the process.

8. Resolving Disputes and Claims Against the Estate

Executors must also be prepared to handle any disputes that arise, whether these are challenges to the validity of the will or claims made against the estate by creditors or disgruntled beneficiaries. While this only happens in rare cases, executors should still be prepared in case obstacles arise. In these situations, it is best to consult a probate specialist to advise you of the legal framework concerning contentious probate.

9. Finalising Estate Affairs

Once all of the above has been carried out, the executor must begin closing bank accounts, transferring property titles, and providing a final account of the estate’s administration to the court if required.

Throughout this process, executors must keep accurate records and communicate effectively with beneficiaries, to build transparency and trust. If there is no will, an administrator will be appointed to the estate and be given similar responsibilities, but this works in a different way. You can find out more in our guide on what happens when there is no will.

What Is the Role of the Executor in the Process?

The role of the executor is pivotal in the probate and estate administration process. Appointed by the deceased in their will, the executor is usually a friend or member of the family, but a professional executor may also be chosen. Their duties can be complex and require a balanced approach of organisation, legal compliance, and empathy towards beneficiaries. Here is a breakdown of their key responsibilities:

Before Probate Is Granted

  • Locating the will: The executor is responsible for finding the deceased’s last will and testament to determine the distribution of their estate and identify the beneficiaries.
  • Valuing the estate: They must calculate the value of the estate, which includes all of the deceased's assets minus any debts. This includes contacting every bank, financial institution and utility company with which the deceased held accounts to find information about their assets. You can often secure this information by providing copies of the person's death certificate, but you will need a grant of probate to access any funds in these accounts.
  • Applying for probate: This involves submitting the necessary documents to the Probate Registry to obtain the legal right to administer the estate.

After Probate Is Granted

  • Gathering estate assets: The executor needs to collect all the deceased's assets, including bank accounts, property, investments, and personal possessions. They need to ensure everything is accounted for and valued.
  • Settling debts and liabilities: Before any assets can be distributed to beneficiaries, the executor must pay off any outstanding debts, loans, and taxes owed by the deceased. This means that they must do a thorough job of looking through the deceased's paperwork and accounts to find any unpaid debts.
  • Distributing the estate: Following the instructions laid out in the will, the executor allocates and distributes the assets to the named beneficiaries. This can involve transferring property titles, moving estate money, and distributing personal items.
  • Managing estate accounts: Throughout the process, the executor must keep detailed records of all transactions, including income received and payments made from the estate. These accounts may need to be presented to the Probate Registry or beneficiaries.
  • Communicating with beneficiaries: Executors are also tasked with keeping beneficiaries informed about the estate administration process, providing updates, and addressing any concerns or questions they may have.
  • Addressing legal and tax matters: Executors must ensure that all tax matters, including paying Inheritance Tax, are correctly handled and that the estate is in compliance with all legal obligations.

There are significant responsibilities associated with acting as someone's executor. As such, many people choose to assign the role to a professional, such as a wills and probate solicitor. This can help to keep the probate process on track, make sure distributions are carried out efficiently, and avoid any conflicts between beneficiaries.

Potential Challenges After Probate Is Granted

After probate is granted, executors may encounter potential challenges during the estate administration process. Navigating these hurdles with care and precision is crucial to avoiding any potential legal disputes further down the line. 

Some estates comprise complex assets such as businesses, overseas properties, or extensive investment portfolios. Managing, valuing, and distributing these can require specialised knowledge and careful planning.

In addition to this, disagreements among beneficiaries over the will's provisions or the estate's administration can lead to disputes that may require mediation or legal intervention to resolve.

Ensuring that all legal requirements are met and that the estate is administered in compliance with the law is paramount. This includes adhering to the timelines for filing documents and paying taxes. This is largely the reason the executor generally has 12 months or more from the date of the death to distribute the estate, known as “The Executor’s Year”.

How Can Percy Hughes & Roberts Help?

At Percy Hughes & Roberts, we understand that the challenges of administering an estate after a death can seem daunting. Our experienced solicitors are committed to providing the guidance and support executors need to navigate these complexities effectively.

Our team of experienced solicitors specialises in Wills, Trusts, and Probate law and offers expert guidance through every step of the estate administration process. Whether it is applying for probate, valuing and distributing assets, or dealing with any legal challenges that may arise, we are here to ensure you navigate these tasks with confidence and clarity.

If you require legal advice in relation to the above, or need help with anything else to do with Wills, Trusts and Probate, Percy Hughes & Roberts can help. If you would like to contact one of our expert wills, trusts and probate solicitors you can do so by calling 0151 666 9090 or by completing the “Get in touch” form on this site.

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