Greenwich & Bexley Hospice

Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice

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Probate Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do when a person dies?

The death of a person will need to be registered with the local registry office, or in Kent, at the local library near to where the person has died. Sometimes, a death can be registered outside of the local area where the person has died. The death cannot be registered until a Doctor or Coroner has issued a cause of death certificate. If there is to be an inquest, the Coroner may issue an interim death certificate. The death can be registered generally by the next of kin or the Executor dealing with the will of the deceased person.

At the same time the funeral can be arranged, but cannot proceed until either the death has been registered or the Coroner has given permission.

The funeral should be arranged by the Executor named in the will of the person who has died or alternatively the person dealing with the deceased person’s money and property.

It should then be established whether or not the person has died has left a will and professional advice may need to be sought regarding sorting out their money and property.

What is Probate?

When a person dies a formal legal process often needs to be followed in order to deal with that person’s property, money and possessions even if a will has been left. This process is known as ‘Probate’ and leads to the Court issuing to the Executors named in a will a document known as a ‘Grant of Probate’. Where there is no will, the next of kin of the person who has died can apply for what is known as a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ which is similar to a Grant of Probate. Once the Grant has been obtained, then bank accounts can be closed, a property sold and after paying any outstanding debts and tax, the remaining money can then be given to those entitled who are known as ‘Beneficiaries’.

No will has been left?

When a person dies without leaving a will their property, money and possessions will pass to their next of kin in accordance with a set of rules laid down by law and known as ‘Intestacy’. Even if a person dies without leaving a husband or wife who is still alive not all of their property and money may not pass to their surviving spouse. The Intestacy laws also state who is allowed to deal with the person’s property, money and possessions by applying to the Court for what is known as ‘Letters of Administration’.

What is a Trust?

Rather than giving another person a gift of money or property free from conditions, you can instead formally decide how that money or property is given. This is achieved through using a ‘Trust’ and can be done either whilst the person giving is alive or under the terms of their will. There are different types of trusts which can be used depending upon how much control is to be kept and who is to benefit.

A trust can also be used to record what financial interests’ persons have in a property. This may apply where two persons are buying a property together or perhaps where a parent or relative is providing some money towards the purchase of a property.

Trusts can also be very useful to help a disabled person and in particular to protect any Government benefits they are receiving.

The persons looking after the property or money held in a trust are known as ‘Trustees’ and those benefiting from the Trust as known as ‘Beneficiaries’.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A person can formally name another person or persons to be able to help them with making decisions regarding their money, property and possessions whilst they are alive. This is done be naming another person or persons as what is known as ‘an Attorney’. An Attorney can then help if that person becomes either physically or mentally unable to deal with their money, property and possessions themselves.

The document signed appointing attorneys is known as a ‘Lasting Power of Attorney’.

In the event of you not being able to make your own decisions, you can also have a Lasting Power of Attorney which allows attorneys to make decisions for you about where you are living, the care you are receiving and whether you should have treatment to continue your life.

Can I gift money to save tax?

In each tax year, which runs from 6th April to the following 5th April, each individual person can give away £3,000.00 in gifts to others free of tax. This is known as the annual gift exemption. Free of tax means that if the person giving dies within 7 years of making the gift; the Government will not add those gifts to their other money, property and possessions when calculating any Inheritance Tax due.

A person can give up to £6,000.00 away gifts tax free in any given tax year, if they have not used all of their £3,000.00 annual gift exemption from the previous tax year.

The £3,000.00 annual gift exemption includes all gifts given to other persons in any given tax year and is not £3,000.00 per person.

Provided the recipient of a gift receives no more than £250.00 in any given tax year, then this will not reduce the available annual gift exemption and these small gifts will also be treated as free of tax.

If a person’s income is regularly more than what you pay out each year in expenses, then it may be possible to use that excess income to make regular annual gifts, which will also be treated as tax free.

Some other gifts such as £5,000.00 for a marriage gift can be free of tax.

If a person makes gifts over the amounts they can give free of tax and they die within 7 years of making the gift, the value of those excess amounts will be added to their money, property and possessions on death when calculating any Inheritance Tax due.

Has my will been signed properly?

There are strict rules which must be followed to ensure that a will has been signed properly and will be legal.

It is always best to have a will written professionally to ensure that not only are your wishes carried out after death, but also to know that it is legal and valid.

Will I have to pay Care Fees?

If a person needs care and their savings exceed £23,250.00, they will be expected to pay for the full cost of their care. If they have savings of between £14,250.00 and £23,250.00, the local authority may contribute towards the cost of their care with them paying a contribution from both their income (such as pensions) and a smaller amount from their capital. If a person has savings below £14,250.00, then the local authority may pay for all their care, but subject to them paying a contribution from their income.

If the person owns a house and they are being cared for at home, then the value of the home will not be taken into account as part of their savings. If they are being cared for outside of their home, the home will be taken into account as part of their savings unless a husband of wife or another relative who is aged 60 years or over old remains living in the home. Sometimes the home will be excluded as part of their savings if another person who is not their husband or wife or relative over 60 is living there, but this will be at the discretion of the local authority. Rather than selling their home, the local authority can sometimes agree to have a mortgage against the person’s property.

Other Government benefits such as Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance may be available to help pay for the cost of care. Family members may also agree to pay for some of the costs of care.

Sometimes either the National Health Service or the Local Authority will pay for all of a person’s care without contribution if they qualify.

Steps can sometimes be taken in a person’s will to protect and preserve part of their home in particular from future possible care fees, but there are strict rules about not being able to give away property and money to avoid paying for the cost of care.