Probate – A Personal Journey
This diary account of the time and expenses I spent getting grant of probate, with additional information, images and example spreadsheets, is now available to buy either as a Kindle download or a printed book.
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Publisher Cade Books
Publication Date 25th March 2015
Paperback 54 pages
Size A5, approx 15cm x 21cm
Interior Black and White
Probate DIY – Week 11
The tax certificate arrived from the bank, but it was for tax paid on interest from the beginning of this tax year to the date of death in June. That was wrong on two counts. First, the interest was being paid gross up until the date of death (I know, because the amount received each month was correct) and second, what I had requested was a certificate showing the tax paid on the interest between the date of death and the closure of account on August 9th. Even though an R85 form had been lodged to receive gross interest on the account, anything received after the date of death became the property of the estate and so attracted tax at the standard rate. I needed to know how much had been paid in order to complete the estate accounts and settle any unpaid tax. Late last week, the correct certificate arrived. It shows that tax had been paid on the interest, so there’s no messing about to do with the Inland Revenue. Hurrah!
The only thing I might have reported in Week 9 was that I distributed the bulk of the estate to the beneficiaries. Sitting in the Executor’s Account meant that there was no interest being earned on the estate balance, so it seemed sensible to make a partial distribution to allow the legatees to make the best of the funds available. I held back enough to pay the expenses incurred carrying out probate, and to settle any tax which may have been due. And a bit spare, just in case.
Now that the estate accounts are complete, I can make the final distributions, and pay myself the expenses I’ve incurred over the last few weeks. These are for telephone calls, postage and the probate fees. My time was for free, naturally.
So, that’s it. Probate complete.
Eleven weeks in total, which is better than the three month target I set myself. This compares very favourably with my first hand experience of using professionals to carry out probate, which has ranged from nine months to almost a year. Time actually spent doing things came to about 35 hours, although I’m sure I missed logging a few hours just checking over records, updating spreadsheets, re-writing letters, picking up and putting down tasks etc. Call it 40 hours. That’s about a week’s work in terms of a proper job.
Expenses ended up at £175, which included £102 for probate fees, £7 for professional A3 copying, £7 for certified extra copies of the death certificate and £7 for a book on how to do probate! The rest was for telephone calls and postage (everything went ‘Signed For’, so this added up to quite a tidy sum).
In total, I filled in 13 forms, ranging from claiming state pension and private pension owed, through the probate and inland revenue forms, to opening the Executor’s bank account. None of these were difficult to handle.
The 22 letters written included the initial ones sent to inform the various organisations of the death, responding to enquiries from the insurance companies, and liaising with the estates department at the bank. In addition, there were six emails and eleven phone calls, although I tried to stick to letters where I could to make sure I had a record of the whole process.
Would I do it again? Oh, yes. It’s given me an interesting insight into how probate works from start to finish. I think even of there had been a house to sell (the house had already sold under power of attorney prior to the death) or stocks and shares to be valued and disposed of, the process would have been quite straightforward.
Thank you for following my journey.
I hope you will have gathered enough confidence to have a go at carrying out probate yourself. If you can follow instructions, write letters, do basic sums, are well organised and can keep accurate records, there’s really no need to spend thousands of pounds on professional assistance.
Now, what am I going to do with myself now it’s all over?
Sorry, but I have had to remove most of this blog page because I have the content for sale on Amazon Kindle and their selling rules do not allow it to be offered for free.
Probate DIY- Week 1
First, since I was sure there were quite a few holes in my knowledge of ‘probate’, a couple of books seemed to be in order.
One was already on the bookshelf – Wills and Probate, published by Which?, ISBN 9780340486047. As with most Which? publications, the book is a comfortable read. Checking the date inside, I found it to be a 1988 edition, nearly twenty five years old. The first section covers will writing, and it suddenly dawned on me that I must have used this same book to help with preparing the DIY wills I wrote for my in-laws !
Reckoning I needed to be brought up to date, I purchased Probate – The Guide to Obtaining Grant of Probate and Administering an Estate, written by Gordon Bowley and published by How To Books Ltd. ISBN is 9781845284091. To be honest, I found this book contained little that I didn’t already know, either from common sense or from knowledge picked up over the years. It does, however, have a handy appendix which offers specimen letters, of which there are sure to be many, and most of the chapters did have the effect of giving me a warm feeling.
The first job was to produce a rough idea of what would be involved, so the beginning of what will probably be a seemingly endless ‘to do’ list was created:
- Sift through all the old papers looking for insurance policies, bank books, premium bonds and the like
- Take a guess at the value of personal belongings (there was no house or furniture to consider)
- Log any outstanding accounts
- Estimate the final cost of the funeral, probate fees and other expenses likely to be incurred
- Use this information to produce a rough estimate of the size of the estate
Actually, because we had power of attorney in recent years, all of this information was simple to gather together with some accuracy. A simple spreadsheet provided an easy way of producing an estimated net value for the estate which, given that some figures might increase but others would decrease, would be a good indication of the actual final value.
You might think I jumped the gun a bit here, trying to produce an estate estimate so early. Well, the reason is that I called the local Probate Registry in Leicester and asked about the possibility of getting the interview for the Grant in Bedford, which would be very handy for me. It transpired that they only hold interviews in Bedford for one day every three months, and the next one planned is 23rd July ! The chap I spoke to said that if I got the probate forms and inheritance tax forms in the post quickly, there was a good chance of making the next session.
The estate is below the limit for paying inheritance tax, so I needed to fill out form IHT205(2006) to show that this is the case and that the estate is ‘excepted’. So, back out with the spreadsheet so I could cross reference the categories needed on the IHT form with my estate estimate. That will make it easy to look back at the basis of the figures should there be any future queries.
The next item to deal with was the probate form PA1. This basically asks for particulars of the deceased and their relatives, the executors of the will, and details of the person applying for the grant of probate, which is me. No problems there, so I assembled the pack for the Probate Office, took it to the Post Office and sent it off by Special Delivery.
It’s worth noting a ‘gotcha’ with the PA1 form. There is a handy checklist on the back page, where you can tick off all the items to go into the envelope. But although there is a box to enter the total for the probate fees (depends on how many ‘grants’ you need to claim money owed to the estate from banks, building societies, etc), there is no tick box for the actual cheque. You’ve guessed correctly – I had to reopen the envelope to slip the cheque inside !
Although it still feels as though I should have done this earlier, the end of the week saw me sending off letters to the various banks, building societies, pension providers, the DWP people and insurance companies to inform them of our sad news.
All in, I have clocked up about 12 hours so far on related activities, and spent about £132, most of which was to cover the probate fees and grants, and ‘recorded delivery’ postage.
So far, so good. More next week…
Sad to say that we lost mother-in-law in June. She had seen ninety one years pass by, although didn’t identify with the last few because of Alzheimer’s disease.
After looking after her financial affairs for many years under a power of attorney, I agreed with my sister-in-law that we should have sufficient knowledge to ‘do’ probate on her Mum’s estate. When I say ‘we’ here, I was well aware that the bulk of the work would fall to me. Which was fine. I’m quite good at form filling, shuffling paperwork, keeping records and planning !
So here I start on what could be a long and difficult journey. At least, that’s what the legal profession would have us believe. We shall see!
I’ve decided to open a new tab to record my progress…