Probate for farming families

The passing of a loved one is often a challenging time for families. You will find an extra layer of complexity when dealing with a farming business and dealing with probate for farming families.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal document confirming that the executors named in the will have the authority to handle the estate, and distribute the estate assets to the persons named in the will. Read our guide to probate to find out more about the process, and who can apply for the document needed, known as the Grant of Probate.

If there is no will, our rules of intestacy guide explains who can deal with the estate.

When you are ready to apply for Probate, read our guide here for information on how to do this, and the costs and timescales involved.

How long does probate for a farming family take?

Estimating how long it takes to administer an estate is a difficult task. The time taken to deal with an estate depends entirely on the complexity of the estate. With a farm involved, it is likely that things will take longer than average to deal with. You may find that it takes anywhere from one year to three or four years to administer a farming estate.

What steps can I take to ensure that I deal with the estate properly?

Registering the death

When you register the death, consider using the government Tell Us Once service to notify various government organisations of the death at the same time.

It is important that you accurately record the deceased’s occupation when registering the death. If they are still actively carrying out some farming activities, no matter how small, avoid referring to them as “retired”.

For details on how to register a death, click here: How to register a death

Gathering the information needed to apply for Probate

Contact the farm accountants and any other professional advisors to gather together the will, partnership agreement, farming accounts and any property deeds and documents. By finding these as soon as possible, you will save time when completing the inheritance tax account (known as an IHT400) you need to send to HMRC.

Valuing the farming assets

You should arrange for professional valuations of the farm, land and any other business assets. A qualified surveyor specialising in farming assets should carry out the valuation. You should ask the valuer to the potential tax reliefs available, such as Agricultural Property Relief (APR). APR is a relief from inheritance tax which you can claim on assets used for agricultural purposes.

Valuations should be carried out as soon as possible, as deadlines apply for paying inheritance tax on an estate. For more information, click here: Do I need to pay inheritance tax?

A well-prepared valuation is less likely to be questioned by HMRC when they receive your IHT400 and the valuation. It is therefore important to include as much detail about the farm as possible both in the valuation and your IHT400.

Consider making a Deed of Variation

A Deed of Variation is a document varying the terms of a will. Often, these are made to reduce the amount of inheritance tax or capital gains tax payable by the estate. It is common for farming wills to be varied after death so that they benefit from additional tax reliefs.

For more information on how to make a deed of variation, click here: Deed of variation: changing a will after death

This must be completed within 2 years of the date of death.

Claim any inheritance tax reliefs

You should claim any APR (mentioned above) available on the farming assets. Sometimes, if this is not available, you can instead claim Business Relief (BPR). Claiming these reliefs can be complex. You should seek professional legal advice before you submit your IHT400 to HMRC.