Family Matters

After we die there is nothing more we can do to protect or provide for our loved ones but we can help them by writing a Will now. If you were to die Intestate (meaning that you didn’t write a Will) the legal system will decide what is to happen to your income and assets, and personal possessions, and who is to have charge of your minor children. And it may well not be the person closest to you who inherits’ everything. An Intestate persons’ property isn’t straight forward to deal with and may take ages to sort out before any funds can be drawn from your bank account, which may mean that your loved ones are in hardship or may have apply to a Court to relieve that problem. A Will is simpler to deal with and allows you to say who is to inherit, who is to care for the children, what arrangements you would like at the funeral etc. Please therefore ensure that you have a valid Will – we recommend that you ask a solicitor to draft the document. Many solicitors charge affordable fees for a simple Will and will help you to ensure that there is a secure record of your Will which can be traced by relatives who need to find it. We can recommend a suitable solicitor for this task.

Joint Accounts

If you have an account or other assets in your sole name, then the account will initially be frozen after you die. Your Executors (the person or persons appointed to deal with your property) will need to obtain a Grant of Probate before they can do anything. However, if you own property jointly with your spouse (or other relative) as "joint tenants" the survivor of the two of you will inherit the whole of that property immediately. It can therefore make your loved ones life a lot easier if bank accounts are held in joint names, so that money can be taken from the account by the surviving named account holder immediately.

There is another form of owning property jointly which is known as being "tenants in common". In this case the survivor does not automatically inherit the share owned by the other joint owner. This might be beneficial if the individual joint owners are financially independent. However, this form of joint ownership is unlikely to apply unless you instruct a solicitor to set up the legal ownership in that way.

Obtaining Probate

Obtaining a Grant of Probate is essentially an accounting task and can often be completed by the beneficiary. There are two key parts – (1) the Executor has to complete an account for Inheritance Tax and pay the tax due (if any), and (2) the Executor has to complete a Probate Application Form and then attend for an interview to swear that the information given in the application is correct. The application will be dealt with by HMCS – Her Majesty’s Courts Service - and guidance can be obtained from directgov.

Obtaining a Grant of Probate is likely to take between 10 to 20 weeks as it is usually necessary to make various enquiries before the forms can be completed and, when the Application is complete, it can take some further time before an appointment for interview is obtained. As accountants we often keep much of the financial information that will be needed to complete the two forms and we are pleased to help Executors to complete this application. When Probate has been obtained copies can be distributed to banks and pension providers etc so that you can obtain control over the funds inherited. We can help you with all of these processes.

Our initial consultation is FREE. To find out more call us on 01784 243054.

The above information is only a general guide. We cannot accept responsibility for the financial consequences of any transaction that you may undertake or refrain from undertaking based upon the information given on this website.