Letters of administration notes
If the deceased left no will, then the next of kin will apply for a grant of letters of administration instead of probate. The same is the case if a will was left but no executors appointed. In these cases, the grant is called ‘letters of administration with will annexed’.
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When letters of administration are sought, the administrators may in some cases have to provide a guarantee – for example where the beneficiaries are under age or mentally disabled or when the administrator is out of the country. The guarantee is provided by an insurance company at a cost or by the individuals who undertake to make good – up to the gross value of the estate – any deficiency caused by the administrators failing in their duties.
Letters of administration may also be taken out by creditors of an estate if executors deliberately do not apply for probate – for instance, if the estate has insufficient assets to pay all creditors and legatees.
Inheritance tax and form IHT 200
Form IHT 200 is the Inland Revenue account for inheritance tax. It should be completed by the reference to form IHT 210, guidance notes. IHT 200 consists of eight pages. Take time and care with this form. It is relatively uncomplicated.
Sending the forms
If the estate you are administering can be contained within form IHT 205, you are ready to send in your application. Make sure that you make photocopies of all material. You should send the following:
The death certificate
Probate application form PA1
Short form IHT 205
A cheque for the fee and copies
Attach any explanatory letter as necessary. You should then send the package by registered post. A few weeks later, you will be invited to review the documents, pay the probate fee and swear the prescribed oath. Remember to take your file of background papers.
Probate fees are calculated on the amount of the net estate, as declared for the purpose of inheritance tax. Fees are payable when you attend the interview at the registry – see form PA4 for guidance.
Attendance at the probate registry
When you arrive at the probate registry you will need to examine the forms that have been prepared for you. You need to satisfy yourself that the details are correct. When you have checked all the detail, the commissioner will ask you to sign the original will and swear the oath, identifying the will as that of the deceased.
The actual process entails you standing up, holding a copy of the New Testament and repeating the words spoken by the commissioner. The words take the form of ‘I swear by Almighty God that this is my name and handwriting and that the contents of this my oath are true and this is the will referred to’. The form of oath is varied depending on the religious beliefs or otherwise.
The commissioner will then sign beneath your signature on the official form and will. The fees are paid and any sealed copies as ordered will be supplied.
The grant of probate document
There may by a time lapse of six weeks or more between lodging the probate papers and the meeting at the registry to sign and swear them. After this has happened, however, things move quickly.
If there is no inheritance tax to be paid – where the net estate is less than £325,000, or where the deceased’s property goes to the spouse – the grant of probate (or letters of administration) is issued within a few days. If inheritance tax is due, it takes two to three weeks before the exact amount is calculated and the grant is usually ready about a week later.
The grant of probate signed by an officer of the probate registry. Attached to the grant of probate is a photocopy of the will (all original wills are kept ant the Principal Probate Registry in London). Each page of your copy of the will carries the impress of the courts official seal. It is accompanied by a note which explains the procedure for collecting and distributing the estate and advises representatives to take legal advice in the event of dispute or other difficulty.