In general probate is required before you can close bank accounts, obtain life insurance or sell a house after someone has died. As with most things, however, there are exceptions to this rule.
Financial institutions all have a threshold for which they require sight of a grant of probate before they release funds. One way around this is to instruct a solicitor to handle the estate, as there are a number of banks who will now release funds and in some cases up to a balance of £100,000, without sight of the grant of probate, if the funds are being transferred to a solicitors’ client account. This is because a law firm is able to provide an undertaking that the funds will be accounted for during the probate process and distributed among the correct beneficiaries.
In some cases, there is also an option to go through a ‘Small Estates’ procedure. This process may be an option on some bank accounts with a lower value and in some cases, this option is available when selling shares.
A question that we are often asked is whether a property can be sold or placed onto the market before a grant of probate is issued. Probate is required before a house which belongs to a deceased person can be sold, however this does not mean that it cannot be placed onto the market beforehand. In general, the process of selling a property (known as conveyancing) takes between 10 and 12 weeks. On this basis, it is fine to place the property onto the market to be sold and in most cases, we often find that from being instructed, we have obtained the grant of probate in plenty of time before the property sale is due to complete.
The process of obtaining a grant of probate and completing inheritance tax papers can be daunting. In instructing a law firm to handle the inheritance tax papers and probate process, this does not only give you peace of mind that matters are being dealt with correctly and in accordance with the law, it can also save time and in some cases, avoid the need for probate by having the benefit of having a solicitor acting for you and corresponding with financial institutions on your behalf.