There may well come a time in the future when you find yourself having to sort out probate, the term used to describe the processes required in dealing with the estate (property, money and possessions) of someone who has died.
Before the executor of the estate (as named in the will) or the next of kin can claim, transfer, distribute or sell any of the assets, it’s likely that they’ll have to apply for probate. Once this has been granted, the executor or next of kin can begin to deal with the assets as set out in the deceased person’s will. If there is no will, then the law determines who receives everything.
It can be an incredibly long and drawn-out process, and unfortunately one that takes place at a time that will already be fraught with stress and emotion, so it can be very difficult for those involved to navigate their way through.
But the government has just announced that those of you applying for probate will now be able to do so from home, thanks to the expansion of an online service. You will now be able to apply, pay and swear a statement of truth online, whereas before you’d have to visit your solicitor’s office or go to a probate registry, thus saving you time and convenience when dealing with a bereavement.
Chief executive of the HM Courts & Tribunals Service Susan Acland-Hood commented on the announcement, saying: “Making probate simpler and more convenient, and removing the need to attend a probate registry and swear an oath in person, helps bereaved people at a very challenging time – those who have tested our new service have told us how much difference it makes.
“I am delighted we are now able to offer this new, simpler way of doing probate to the public at large. It is part of the work we’re doing to make the justice system easier to navigate for everyone.”
The process of probate does involve a lot of complicated legal, financial and tax work, so it’s great news that the government is trying to simplify it. You can, however, opt to appoint a professional to act on your behalf, which can certainly reduce the amount of stress and pressure you’re under at what will already be a very difficult time for you.
If you’re dealing with an especially complex estate, it may even be essential that you enlist professional help in the form of a probate solicitor. Should you decide to go it alone, remember that the process will involve notifying relevant bodies of the person’s death, including building societies, banks, local councils, HMRC and so on, as well as settling any accounts they hold, tallying assets and liabilities, paying off inheritance tax and distributing assets… so it can take some time to complete.
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