How to value the estate of someone who has died - the basics

When valuing a deceased person's estate you must include property, possessions and money they owned at the time of their death, as well as certain gifts they may have made up to seven years before they died. Your valuation must reflect the current market value at the time of death.

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When you have to value an estate

Valuing the estate of someone who has died is one of the first things to do if you're acting as the executor or personal representative for that estate.

You normally can't get access to the assets in the estate until you've received a grant of probate (or confirmation in Scotland).

You need to know the estate's worth to fill in the probate application forms and show whether or not Inheritance Tax is due.

Find out more about Inheritance Tax

Read more about Inheritance Tax and the probate process

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Assets that typically make up an estate

Assets are anything that has a value, such as:

  • money in bank, building society or savings accounts
  • houses and land, including farmland
  • businesses, or business assets, owned by the deceased (or a business partnership of which they were a member)
  • investments such as stocks and shares, including family shares
  • personal belongings, including jewellery, antiques and other collectibles
  • furniture, fixtures and fittings in a house
  • motor vehicles
  • pensions that include a lump sum payment on death (as opposed to an ongoing annuity to a surviving partner)
  • assets in a trust from which the deceased benefited
  • payouts from life insurance policies
  • foreign assets held abroad including foreign bank accounts, property or shares

Gifts

You must also evaluate the following to see if they are exempt (and if they aren't exempt, you should include them in your valuation):

  • any assets given away in the seven years before the person died
  • any asset that the deceased gave away at any time, but in which they kept an interest - for example a house they gave away but lived in rent-free

See what gifts are exempt from Inheritance Tax

See how to value gifts for Inheritance Tax

Find out more about Inheritance Tax and giving away a home

Joint property

You'll need to find out how the deceased person owned any property or assets to work out the value of their share.

See how to value a share in joint property

Land and buildings

All land or buildings that the deceased person owned are part of the estate for Inheritance Tax. If they had been living rent-free in a house that had been left in trust to someone else you'll also need to include this in your valuation of the estate.

More on how to value land and buildings

Stocks and shares

If the deceased had shares or other investments that were listed on a recognised stock exchange or they held shares in a private company, you'll need to use their value on the day the deceased person died.

Find out how to value stocks and shares

Trusts

If the deceased person's estate includes a trust, you'll have to follow special rules for valuing it.

See how to handle Inheritance Tax when someone dies and a trust is involved

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The deceased's debts and liabilities

Debts and liabilities are outstanding bills and anything else the deceased owed at the time of death. Examples include:

  • outstanding mortgages
  • credit card balances
  • bank overdrafts
  • unpaid personal taxes such as Income Tax
  • household bills (eg electricity)
  • funeral expenses

Find out more about valuing debts and liabilities

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Key steps in valuing the deceased's estate

Step 1 - Work out the total value of the assets and gifts

Find out the market value (a realistic selling price) of all of the assets at the time of death. This may be lower than the insurance value.

To value some assets you may need to make more detailed enquiries. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) strongly recommend that you use a professional valuer for valuing land and buildings, because the valuing of land and buildings can be a complicated area. You'll have to pay their fees, but you may be able to claim these back from the estate later.

You don't have to get a professional valuation for ordinary household or personal items if either of the following applies:

  • the individual items have a value of less than £500
  • you can use publicly available data to value the items - for example, to value a second hand car

This includes items such as furniture, pictures, paintings, china, TV, audio and video equipment, cameras, jewellery, cars, caravans, boats, antiques and stamp collections.

Remember to include any gifts (money, property or assets) that the deceased gave away that weren't exempt. If you don't know the exact value of any item and the value of the estate is likely to be less than £200,000 you can use an estimated figure but be as accurate as possible.

Add this all together to get the total value of the assets and gifts.

Step 2 - Deduct any debts

Deduct from the total market value of the assets anything that the deceased or the estate owed.

Step 3 - Make a record of your valuation

The value of all of the assets minus all of the debts is the value of the estate. It's a good idea to make a list of all the assets and debts. Keep a record of paperwork you used to obtain valuations, as well as invoices or receipts for expenses. You'll need these to fill in the Inheritance Tax and probate forms.

See what Inheritance Tax forms and paperwork you should keep

See an example calculation for Inheritance Tax

Step 4 - Decide if Inheritance Tax is due and which forms you need to complete

You need different forms depending on where the deceased lived and whether Inheritance Tax is due.

Find the forms you need for probate and Inheritance Tax

Check the Inheritance Tax threshold to see if Inheritance Tax is due

If the affairs of the estate are complicated, you may want to work with a solicitor to help you value the estate and pay the tax. You'll find some links below to professional organisations - although not all professionals are registered with them.

Find a solicitor on the Law Society of England and Wales website (Opens new window)

Find a solicitor on the Law Society of Northern Ireland website (Opens new window)

Find a solicitor on the Law Society of Scotland website (Opens new window)

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More help?

Contact the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline

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