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Wills, Inheritance Tax and Probate

Probate – a comprehensive guide




Handling the estate of someone who has died can be an extremely  stressful process, particularly at such a difficult time and especially if they were close. The following checklist is therefore intended as a comprehensive guide to the information which will typically be required when dealing with the administration of a deceased’s estate.

Please note that in most cases, HM Revenue & Customs will require an Inheritance Tax Return to be completed before a Grant of Representation can be obtained and a detailed account must be provided where the gross value of an estate exceeds £325,000.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Private Wealth & Tax team. We are experienced in dealing with such matters and are best placed to offer you the most appropriate advice.



1. What to do first

•  The Will

  • do you know where the original Will is located?
  • who are the Executors?
  • do the Executors propose to act?
  • who are the proposed Administrators and relationship to the deceased?
  • are there any obvious problems re execution, alteration, pages stapled together etc.

•  Who will be registering the death?

  • obtain the required number of Registrar’s copy death certificates

•  Was death due to circumstances which may give rise to negligence/insurance claim?

•  Funeral arrangements

  • does the Will contain any directions and if so, are they in hand?
  • obtain the name and address of undertakers and call to check availability
  • have relatives been advised?
  • are obituary notices required?

•  Notify bank(s) of death by telephone and follow with letter

•  Consider security if property left unattended and notify insurers and police

•  Notify accountants/other agents of death if deceased was known to them personally

•  Check items held in strong room/pervious client files and cash held on clients’ accounts.

2. About the deceased
  • What is the full legal name of the deceased and any other names used?
  • If the deceased used other names to hold property, state the reason why
  • Occupation of deceased. If agricultural or business property is involved in the estate the information should reflect that
  • Was the deceased domicile or deemed domicile? 
  • Did the deceased get married, divorced or remarried after the date of the Will/Codicil?
3. Relatives of the deceased

Make a list of the following:

  • Spouse
  • Surviving children (and ages)
  • Predeceasing children
  • Surviving grandchildren
  • Surviving parents
  • Surviving brother(s)/sister(s)
4. Personal representatives

Make a list of the following:

  • Full names of all representatives
  • Their address
  • Home/work telephone number
  • e-mail address
  • Do they all wish to prove the Will? 
5. About the Will
  • Confirm names and current addresses of all beneficiaries
  • Obtain current addresses where none provided
  • Are any beneficiaries a. under the age of 18 (or other age as stated in the Will)? b. over 18 by unable to deal with their own financial affairs?
  • Are all items specifically referred to in the Will still owned by the deceased? If not, please advise what happened to them as the revenue will require this information.
6. Transfer of nil rate band tax

Was any part of the deceased’s spouse/civil partner’s nil rate band used, where the spouse/civil partner died first?

To claim any unused nil rate band, the following documents are required:

  • Copy of the Grant of Representation
  • If no Grant has been taken out, a copy of the Death Certificate is required
  • A copy of the Will if one was left
  • A copy of the Deed of Variation if one was executed
7. Contention of the Will
  • Is there any likelihood of the Will being contested? If yes, consult legal advice.
8. Assets of the deceased – stocks and shares
  • Where are the certificates held or are investments held in nominee name?
  • Do you have a list of stocks and shares, unit trusts, PEPs, ISAs and other investments owned by the deceased
  • Were there any private company shares held?
9. Cash (other than cash at the bank)
  • Is there cash in hand? If yes, how will it be dealt with?
  • Any unused Travellers’ Cheques or Foreign Currency?
  • Any uncashed dividend warrants or cheques?
10. Bank accounts
  • Who were the deceased’s principal bankers?
  • Were any accounts maintained at any other banks/branches?
  • Any joint accounts? If so, you will need to provide details
  • Do you have any details of standing orders/direct debits and addresses of originators?
11. National Savings
  • National Savings Certificates
  • Income, Capital or Premium Bonds 11.3 Nationals Savings Bank accounts
  • Do any nominations exist and if so, are details available?
  • Where are certificates/pass books held?
12. Building society accounts
  • Did the deceased have any building society accounts?
  • Do you have pass books or details of and addresses of building society branches?
  • Did the deceased have any accounts in joint names?
13. Friendly societies
  • Did the deceased have any money with Friendly or Co-operative Societies? If so, obtain details.
14. Debts due to the deceased
  • Were there any loans made by the deceased with all monies owing to the deceased at death?
15. Salary
  • Name and address of employer
  • Are any redundancy payments or death in service benefits due? Are these written in Trust?
16. Pensions
  • DSS pension: National Insurance number?
  • Any other DSS benefits e.g. Attendance Allowance/Income Support?
  • Other Governments Departments – e.g. Crown Agents, Civil Service, etc.
  • Private pensions – address and reference of pension providers?
  • Do any of the pension payments continue after the deceased’s death?
  • Is any lump sum payable by a pension provider as a result of the deceased’s death?
17. Life insurance & annuities
  • Were any policies, annuities, bonds or pensions due to the Estate?
  • Are any policies, annuities, bonds or pensions due to any relatives or other beneficiaries?
  • Do you have the policy documents?
  • Details of any insurance brokers and financial advisors who have dealt with these policies (including cars)?
18. Furniture & personal affects
  • If any household or personal possession has already been sold, please let us know the gross sale proceeds
  • If the value of the household and personal goods is very low, a professional valuation may not be required – in this case be prepared to give brief details of the items and their estimated values.
19. Interest in another estate
  • Did the deceased have any interest in any unadministered estates? i.e. a right to a legacy or a share of an estate of someone who dies before them but which they had not received before they died?
  • If yes, do you know the name of the person who died and any other details you have with regard to it?
20. Quick succession relief
  • Has the deceased recently acquired any property within 5 years of death either by inheritance or gift?
21. Tax returns
  • Where is the Will?
  • Who are the executors of the Will?
22. Foreign assets

Did the deceased own any assets outside of the UK? If so:

  • You will need to give details and approximate value, where possible, of all foreign assets
  • Did the deceased make a separate foreign Will? If so, do you know when was the Will made and where it is?
  • Do you have the name, address and reference of the deceased’s lawyer, accountant (or other key financial adviser) who you can contact in respect of the foreign assets?
23. Land & building
  • Is there any property owned by the deceased? If yes, could it be let?
  • Estimated values of the property? You will need to instruct a firm of valuers or legal firm to handle this
  • If the property is leasehold? If yes, do you know:
    a. Name and address of freeholder
    b. Name and address of managing agents, if any.
    c. Location of property deeds?
  • Is property subject to mortgage? If yes, do you know:
    a. Name and address of mortgagor
    b. Account number
    c. Does mortgage property policy exist?
    d. Do you know the approximate amount outstanding?
  • Is the property subject to tenancies? If yes, do you know:
    a. Who collects rent?
    b. Who may supply details of tenancies
    c. Is the property subject to any damage that may affect this value?
    d. Is the property agricultural property?
24. Business interests
  • Was the deceased in business as a sole trader or as a partner?
  • Do you have copies of the relevant documents, eg partnership deed, Articles of Association, shareholders agreement etc.?
  • Do you have the name and address of the accountants who can give details of the business and provide a valuation of the deceased business interests?
  • Do you have details of any directorships and list sources of any director’s fees or expenses?
  • Was the deceased a Lloyd’s underwriter?
25. Debts owed by the estate

Is any deduction against the Estate being claimed for any money that the deceased had borrowed for relatives, friends, trustees or other loans, overdrafts for guarantee debts? If so:

  • Do you have the details of any debts due to relatives or friends?
  • Of any other loans or overdrafts?
  • Of any guarantee debts?
26. Funeral account
  • Name and address of undertakers?
  • If a memorial, gravestone or inscription on an existing guarantee is to be commissioned, request an estimate of cost.
27. Mourning expenses
  • Were any additional expenses incurred, such as catering, obituary notices, flowers, stationery etc? These may be deductible for Inheritance tax purposes.
28. Services
  • Are there any outstanding bills for services (in the name of the deceased) e.g. gas, electricity, water etc?
  • Do you have the details of the account numbers, if known for services:
    a. Electricity
    b. Gas
    c. Telephone
    d. Council Tax
    e. Water
  • Who will notify the utility companies of the death?
  • Have any goods been ordered (eg mail order) but not received prior to death?
  • Did the deceased own any of the following:
    a. Mastercard and/or Visa etc.
    b. American Express or Diners Club
    c. Other credit cards
    d. Store cards
  • Did the deceased purchase any items on hire purchase? If so do you know:
    a. Name and address of lender
    b. Account reference
  • Are there any outstanding legal or accountancy charges?
  • Did the deceased employ any staff, domestic or personal? If so do you know:
    a. To what date have their wages been paid
    b. Who dealt with PAYE and National Insurance Deductions
    c. Are staff to be retained?
  • Are there any other debts?
  • Are there any business debts?
29. Aggreable property – gifts

The concept of gifts is very wide and includes gifts of cash or other assets as well as transfer of value, such as releasing a debt or selling an asset at less than its market value.

  • Did the deceased make any gifts above £250 within 7 years of death other than to the deceased’s spouse?
  • Did he/she make any gifts after 17th March 1986 where the deceased retained any benefit from the gifted property or where the gifted property was not enjoyed to the entire exclusion of the deceased?
  • Did the deceased pay any life policy premium where policy monies do not form part of his/her estate? i.e. for the benefit of someone else (other than for the deceased’s spouse)
  • Provide details of any trust or settlement created, or added to by the deceased within the 7 year period
  • Did the deceased cease to have any right to benefit from any assets held in trust or in a settlement within the 7 year period?
  • Did the deceased create or add funds to a Discretionary Trust?
  • Have any assets given in the last 7 years been sold by the recipient?
30. Settled property (assets held in trust)
  • Did the deceased have any right to any benefit from any assets held in a trust or in a settlement (other than a Discretionary settlement which can be ignored) at the date of death? If so do you have:
    a. A copy of the document which created the Trust
    b. Details of the Trustees
    c. The name, address and reference of the solicitors (bank) acting for the trust?
31. Nominations
  • Did the deceased nominate any savings bank account, savings certificates or other assets in favour of any person?
32. Joint property in the UK
  • Do you have a list of all joint property e.g. bank/ building society accounts, stocks and shares, household effects, land and buildings?
  • When did the joint ownership begin?
  • Who are the other joint owners and beneficiaries, if different?
  • Who supplied the funds?
  • Who received the income, if there was any?
33. Administration of the estate – tax returns
  • Who will deal with the tax returns during the administration period?
34. Chattels
  • Who will deal with the distribution of furniture and personal effects, etc?
35. Insurance (buildings, contents, car etc.)
  • Have the insurance companies been advised of the executors’ interest under any of the deceased’s policies?
  • In the case of a car, is anyone covered to drive it?
  • Do the amounts in which buildings and/or contents are insured need to be reviewed?
36. Enduring power of attorney/lasting power of attorney
  • Did the deceased have an Enduring Power of Attorney or Lasting Power of Attorney?
37. Ex gracia payments & memorandum of wishes
  • Is it intended to make any ex gracia payments & memorandum of wishes?
38. Other matters
  • Don’t forget to mention any other information about assets, liabilities or otherwise which you consider to be relevant
  • Was the deceased a beneficiary of any estate in the 2 years before death?
  • Should a redirection of mail be set up on the deceased’s property? If so where to: the Executor?
Private Wealth

Private Wealth & Tax

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Shinead Wilson

Patrick Thornton

Head of Private Wealth & Tax

+44 (0)207 235 8000


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