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What are the Key Stages of Probate?

This page provides a guide to the key stages of probate and the probate process. You can read our 7 point summary guide below for a quick overview.

Probate in England and Wales is referred to as the legal and financial process of dealing with all of the assets (normally this would include property, money and other valued possessions) of someone who has died.

The person who has to deal with the assets and liabilities (known as the estate) is referred to as the executor and is normally the person or persons named in the Will. The process is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The entire process involves a number of key stages of probate (see below). Many people will be familiar with the term “applying for probate”. This is the application made to the Probate Registry that allows an executor to deal with a deceased person’s estate.

Once the Probate Registry has dealt with the application, the executor is provided with a “grant of probate” – a document that gives the executor the ability to begin dealing with the estate.

There are of course a range of scenarios that bring greater complexities to the probate process including where someone has died without a Will or where no executor has been named in the Will.

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Our dedicated probate team are experts in all areas of probate and are always happy to discuss with you how we can help and provide guidance on the most appropriate course of action, what is involved and the likely costs.

If you’d like to have in informal chat about how we can help, then please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team. All their direct contact details appear at the bottom of this page.

Find out more about the range of probate services and options we can provide for full service or grant only probate.

The Key Stages of Probate

There are a number of key stages of probate involved in obtaining a grant of probate, all of which can come with a range of complexities. The overview below provides a very general overview of the main elements to each stage.

  1. Valuing the estate – This involves calculating the value of all of the deceased person’s assets and all of their financial liabilities. The latter might include things like loans, credit card debts and utility bills.
  2. Identifying the beneficiaries – This involves obtaining the necessary identification to verify the beneficiaries (the people named in the Will who are due receive all or some of the assets).
  3. Reporting the value of the estate to HMRC –Sometimes, inheritance tax will be due on the deceased person’s estate. Irrespective of whether tax is due or not, there is still a requirement to submit details of the value of the estate to HMRC. Dealing with inheritance tax can be complex and is often an area where specialist expertise can reduce the overall tax liability. Find out more about our inheritance tax expertise and how we can help.
  4. Applying for the grant of probate – You will need to make an application to the Probate Registry to obtain a grant of probate which allows you to deal with the administration of the estate.
  5. Settling the estate –After the grant of probate has been received can you begin collecting in the estate and distributing it in accordance with the deceased person’s Will. This can be a complex process and might involve selling certain assets (including property); paying liabilities such as outstanding loans; and dealing with additional tax concerns and in particular inheritance tax, income tax and capital gains tax.
  6. Finalising estate accounts – The executor will need to prepare estate accounts ensuring that all payments (in and out) are documented and showing the final balance that is due to the beneficiaries of the estate. The final accounts must be approved by the executors and beneficiaries
  7. Distribute remaining assets – Once the final accounts are approved, any remaining assets can then be distributed to the beneficiaries.