Dealing with bereavement

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Dealing with the estate

Anyone responsible for dealing with the estate is known as a 'personal representative'.

  • If there's a will, this is anyone named as an 'executor'.
  • If there's no will, this is the immediate next of kin (refer to step 3 'Obtaining the Will')

What a personal representative has to do

  • Make an inventory of everything in the estate and work out the total value.
  • Calculate and settle any inheritance tax and other tax liabilities.
  • Apply for Probate, if required.
  • Collect all assets (such as shares and investments) and settle any debts, including mortgages and loans.
  • Sell any property or investments that the will doesn't specifically transfer to someone else.
  • Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

If the deceased only held accounts in joint names with someone else and Probate isn't needed, the personal representative may be able to deal with everything in a few weeks. On the other hand, if Probate is needed, or if the person owned property, this process can take some time.

The personal representative's options

If you are the personal representative, you can decide whether you want to:

  • Deal with the estate yourself; or
  • Appoint a solicitor or specialist Probate service to do some or all of it for you.

Our Bereavement Support Team can talk you through the different options available.

Doing it yourself

If you choose to deal with the estate yourself, you may find yourself receiving and paying out large sums of money and having to keep track of a stream of transactions. One way to simplify this process and keep all money separate from your own is to open a dedicated Executor Account with HSBC.

If you would like to discuss this service, or simply talk through any part of the process that is unclear, our specialist Bereavement Support Team is here to help. Call us on 0345 850 0088.

What is Grant of Probate?

Grant of Probate or ‘Probate’ (or Confirmation if you live in Scotland) is a general term used to describe the process you may need to go through to apply for the legal right to deal with an estate.

The process involves applying to the Probate Registry, who formally confirm if a will is valid or, if there is no will, check that you are legally allowed to deal with the deceased's estate. Once they are satisfied, they'll issue a legal document called the Grant of Probate, or the Grant of Letters of Administration (if there wasn't a will). This document formally names the person(s) responsible for dealing with the estate. In Scotland, both documents are known as 'Confirmation'.

Once the personal representative has received Grant of Probate, they'll need to show the legal document to banks, building societies and other organisations to prove that they have authority to deal with any assets the deceased owned.

Is Probate required?

Probate is not required where all the deceased assets are held jointly with another person and where they pass automatically to the joint owner.

Where the value of the deceased assets held in their sole name is greater than £5,000 Probate may be required. Most financial institutions have individual discretionary limits for releasing assets without seeing the legal document.

At HSBC it's important that we support you as an individual. Every case will be reviewed by one of our bereavement specialists and decisions will not be made solely on the value of the estate. If we're notified of the death by a personal representative, either during a visit to one of our branches or by calling the Bereavement Support Team direct, we'll be able to advise our requirements immediately and if we need to see Probate. If we're notified by post we will confirm all our requirements in writing.

Note: Where the deceased owned a property in their sole name Probate will always be required before it can be sold or transferred.

How to apply for Probate

To apply for Probate yourself, you need to complete some application forms and send them to your local Probate Registry Office. You can download these here or order them from the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on: 0300 123 1072. A standard fee is payable, when registering, for all estates of £5,000 or over.

In Scotland, you apply to the Sheriff Court instead of a Probate Registry Office. Click here for more information, or contact a solicitor.

Professional support with Probate applications

In 2015, after careful consideration, we transferred our Probate Services business to Simplify Channel Ltd (Simplify).

Simplify has an established UK probate business with a range of specialist services to support personal representatives with the probate and estate administration process.

Their services include:

  • Grant of Probate only service - A fixed price solution for clients who wish to administer the estate but need assistance with extracting the Grant of Probate.
  • Full professional Estate Administration - An end to end solution from gathering information in order to apply for the Grant, to collecting assets, paying liabilities and distributing the estate.
  • DIY tools - Advice and guidance on how to deal with estate administration, as well as tools, videos and tutorials on how to complete probate.

For further details on how Simplify can support you, please call 01608 653405 or overseas, +44 (0) 1789 867107 or visit: https://www.simplifyprobate.co.uk/.

For independent advice the Money Advice Service provides information on when you could use a probate specialist: www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/when-to-use-a-probate-specialist.

Inheritance tax

Depending on the value of the estate and who it is left to, you may have to pay inheritance tax. Generally, some or all of the inheritance tax must be paid before Probate is granted. This is normally paid by the personal representative, using money from the estate. It may be possible for HSBC or another bank to pay this using money held in the deceased's accounts.

If there isn't enough money available in the account to pay the inheritance tax, you can get further information from the HMRC website: www.hmrc.gov.uk/inheritancetax. This includes the current limits and ways to pay, under the following headings:

  • Introduction – Inheritance tax (For current limit)
  • Paying HMRC – Paying your inheritancetax bill – How to pay (For ways to pay the bill)

Other taxes

The personal representative is also required to settle other taxes such as income tax and National Insurance for the person who has died. Contact HMRC and they'll tell you what to do.

For more information, visit: www.gov.uk/after-a-death/tax-and-benefits

Letting us know

Call us

0800 085 1992*

or +44 (0)114 252 0249 if you're calling from outside the UK.

Notify online

You can inform us of a bereavement online

Notify now

General enquiries

0345 850 0088

Find your nearest branch

Find branch

Write to us

You can send documents to:

District Service Centre
HSBC Bank plc
Harry Weston Road
Binley
Coventry
CV3 2TQ

Bereavement guide

Download now

* Lines are open 8:30am to 6pm, Monday to Friday and Saturdays 9am to 2pm (excluding public holidays).

Our top 5 FAQs

  1. What documentation do you need in order to close the accounts?
    What documentation do you need in order to close the accounts?

    We will need to see the following original documents:

    • Death certificate
    • Will (if one exists)
    • Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration (if applicable)
    • ID&VA for any Personal Representatives who are not HSBC customers – please see Help Us Identify You for a complete list of acceptable documents.

    We will also require a completed Payment Authorisation Form or forms signed by all the Personal Representatives.

  2. How long will it take to release the balance?
    How long will it take to release the balance?

    Once we have received the correct documentation, where there is only current and savings accounts, we will combine all the balances and release the funds within ten working days. Where there are other products, this may take longer and we will advise you of this separately within a letter of the balances held at date of death.

    If we are aware that a dispute exists over the estate, we will not be able to release the funds until we have seen the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.

  3. Can I pay the funeral bill from the deceased’s account?
    Can I pay the funeral bill from the deceased’s account?

    Yes. We will be able to pay the funeral bill for you once we have seen the death certificate and you provide us the funeral bill.

    If the bill is an estimate, we will be able to pay the deposit once we have seen the death certificate.

    If you have already paid the funeral bill from your own account, we may be able to reimburse you once we have seen the death certificate, the funeral bill and proof of payment.

    If sufficient funds are not available, we can make a partial payment, to the value of the funds held, with written confirmation from the Personal Representative(s).

  4. I am a Personal Representative, what proof of identity and address do you need from me?
    I am a Personal Representative, what proof of identity and address do you need from me?

    For a complete list of the acceptable documents as proof of identity and confirmation of address please see Help Us Identify You.

  5. Will credits still be accepted into a sole account?
    Will credits still be accepted into a sole account?

    Yes. We are able to continue to receive credits into an account after we have been notified of the death. Please bear in mind, some credits may be re-claimed, e.g. state pension.