What is a Probate?
The best way to explain the old-fashioned word ‘Probate’ is to describe it as a Court Order called a Grant of Representation. Once issued this gives you the power to deal with the affairs of a deceased person.
This description would make the Probate process much less confusing - indeed, this is probably the only time in law when using more words helps! So it’s as simple as that. “getting probate” means obtaining a Court Order so that you can step into the shoes of someone who has died so that you can sort their affairs out.
The Executor or Administrator of a person’s estate will usually apply for Probate.
Do I Need A Grant Of Representation?
Not necessarily. A Grant of Representation is normally only required where the estate consists of stocks or shares, certain insurance policies, property or land held in the deceased’s sole name or joint names as ‘tenants in common’.
A Grant of Representation may not be required where the deceased left modest amounts of money in banks/building societies. Before applying for Probate it’s a good idea to check the deceased’s bank/building society’s policy as to how much can be released without seeing a Grant of Representation.
It’s also usually the case that a Grant of Representation is not required when the deceased held everything jointly with someone else and everything passes automatically to the surviving joint owner (i.e. between husband and wife).
What Are The Different Types of Grant Of Representation?
A Grant of Representation is an umbrella term used to describe the following:
A Grant of Probate is the Court Order obtained when someone passes away leaving a Will.
A Grant of Letters of Administration is the Court Order obtained when someone passes away without leaving a Will (known as dying intestate).
What Happens When Someone Dies Leaving A Will?
Most Wills nominate an Executor who is responsible for sorting out the affairs of the person who has died. Taking on the role of an Executor can seem daunting, and it is a big responsibility as Executors are legally responsible for sorting out the deceased’s estate. The duties of an executor include:
- Applying for a Grant of Probate to deal with the deceased person’s assets if required
- Settling any tax due from the estate with HMRC
- Collecting in all of the assets of the estate
- Dealing with any property in the estate
- Paying any outstanding liabilities relating to the estate
- Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will
What Happens When Someone Dies Without Leaving A Will (Intestate)?
When someone passes away without leaving a Will, then the persons entitled to the estate under the Rules of Intestacy should also apply to deal with it. In this case, they are known as Administrators and will apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration.
Administrators to an estate are legally responsible for sorting out the estate in much the same way as an Executor.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
If you are acting as an Executor or Administrator of a person’s estate, then it’s useful to familiarise yourself with the Rules of Intestacy and the basics of Inheritance Tax. Check out our other FAQs on these subjects for more information and guidance.
If you find you are not confident in dealing with these issues or the situation is too complicated, then it’s time to consult legal professionals.
How Do I Apply For Probate?
When someone leaves a modest estate with a properly executed Will, it’s a simple process for a well-informed Executor or Administrator to manage the disposal of assets. However, we do advise caution. Get as much information as possible before trying to deal with administering an estate yourself. A useful site to visit before starting the process is https://www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance (This is also where you download the Probate application form).
How Much Does Probate Cost?
When applying for Probate, there is a fee of £215 payable to HM Courts and Tribunals Service. If the estate is under £5,000, then there is no charge. Of course, if you appoint a solicitor or legal representative to help you, their fees would depend on the complexity of the work required.
How Long Does It Take For Probate to be granted?
This will vary depending on the complexity of the estate. It can sometimes take months for an Executor to be in a position to apply for Probate especially if they need to search for a Will or list all the assets for the Inheritance Tax form.
For small or simple estates with no issues or complications then the Grant should be extracted within about eight weeks. For larger estates involving property and multiple types of assets, it can take several months.
Once Probate has been granted the executor or administrator can dispose of the assets according to the Will or the Rules of Intestacy, whichever applies.
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If In Doubt Seek Help
As we have seen, administering an estate can be daunting. Seeking professional help is the surest way to help you to manage these issues and ensure that a person’s estate is concluded properly.
If you need any assistance whatsoever then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0203 389 8469 or 0161 342 1409.