Legal and financial matters
When someone dies, there will probably be a number of legal or financial matters to deal with. You may wish to do this yourself or you may need the help of a Solicitor or a Financial Adviser. The information on this section of the website aims to help you decide the best way forward.
If you have difficulty dealing with the deceased's property, possessions or guardianship of children, you should get advice from a solicitor or the Citizens Advice CAB . Advice and leaflets about legal advice are also available in public libraries, police stations and courts. They will also hold a list of local solicitors who take legal aid cases and if they specialise in probate work. You can also see information online at Yellow Pages Scoot and the Legal Services Commission website . Many solicitors are prepared to offer up to half an hour legal advice for free, or a small fee, for an initial consultation to discuss your situation.
What is probate and do you need it?
A probate is a piece of paper issued by the Probate Registry confirming that a person (an executor) has the right to 'wind up' an estate – a house, money and savings – of the person who has died. The "executor" is the person chosen in the Will to sort out the estate and make sure it goes to the people named in it.
Do you have to have probate?
It depends on the size of the estate. If it is very small, no probate may be needed.
How do you get probate?
You must fill in a form. If the estate is small, the form does not have to give full details of it. The important form is the "Executors Oath" as it must be sworn as true. For more information on probate, including application forms, fees etc, visit the Gov.uk website .
Do you have to work with a solicitor?
No. You can apply direct to the Probate Registry yourself. However, it helps to involve a Solicitor. Most of them offer probate services and their fees depend upon the amount of work and the size of the estate.
For a Will to be valid, it must be:
- Made by a person who is 18 years or older
- Made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person
- Made by a person who is of sound mind and in writing. This means that he/she is fully aware of the nature of the document he/she is writing or signing and aware of her/his property and the identify the people who may inherit
- Signed by the person making the Will in the presence of two witnesses
- Signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the Will, after she/he has signed. A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a Will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner of a beneficiary), the Will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit.
Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to include the date on which it is signed. As soon as it is signed and witnessed, it is complete.
What if there is no Will?
Speak to a Solicitor - it is safer in the long run because various laws affect who is entitled to wind up the estate and receive any money. You can see more information about making a will at www.makingawill.org.uk .
If the person who died was paying tax on income from investments, was self-employed or was an employee, you must tell HM Revenue & Customs about the death as soon as possible. This will enable his/her tax affairs to be settled. Depending on circumstances, this may involve paying more tax or claiming a repayment. The particular tax office to contact will depend on the deceased's circumstances. For instance:
- If he/she was an employee or had a pension from a former employer, the pay section of the employer/pension organisation will know which tax office you should contact
- If he/she was self-employed, contact the tax office nearest to the place of the business
- If he/she was unemployed, or retired without pension from a former employer, contact the tax office nearest to the home address.
HM Revenue & Customs leaflet IR45, (what to do about tax when someone dies) gives more information. You can get a copy of the form or more information from HM Revenue & Customs .
Independent financial advice
You can get professional financial advice from a variety of people:
- Your bank or building society may be able to offer you help about investments but they will usually only be able to recommend their own policies or investments
- An independent financial advisor (IFA) will able to search around for the best investments, savings, life assurance, mortgages etc. to suit your individual needs. It makes sense to contact an IFA so that you can consider all options available.
Help for widows and widowers
If your husband or wife dies, you may be able to claim benefits to help with costs at home:
- If you were under state pension age when your spouse died or your late spouse was not entitled to category A retirement pension when he/she died, you may be able to get a one-off bereavement payment providing the national insurance contribution condition has been met. A category A retirement pension is a state retirement pension paid to an individual based on their personal national insurance contributions. You may also be able to get the bereavement payment if your spouse died as a result of his or her job
- If you were aged 45 or over when your spouse died, not bringing up children and the widow or widower or a man or a woman who has paid national insurance contributions, you may be able to claim bereavement allowance
- If you make a claim to income support or jobseekers allowance when your bereavement allowance ends, you may be able to get a bereavement premium, providing that you were 55 or over but under 60 at 9th April 2001, were widowed between 9th April 2001 and 8th April 2006 and have no partner or dependants
- If you are bringing up at least one child or expecting your late husband's baby, and your late husband or wife has paid national insurance contributions, you may be able to claim widowed parents allowance
- If you are a war widow, you may be able to get help from the War Pensions Agency
- If you have to bring up children on our own after you partner's death, there is help available if you want to find work, through the New Deal for Lone Parents. A new deal adviser can help you look for work and arrange training, including helping paying for childcare and travel.
Solicitors.com - Resource for finding solicitors in Fareham for legal support and advice.