What is Probate?
"Probate" is a loose term used for the legal process of administering an Estate of someone who has passed away. Once the funeral is over someone has to take responsibility for dealing with realising the Deceased’s assets, settling their debts and liabilities including the payment of any Inheritance Tax or other taxes due and thereafter distributing the Estate in accordance with the terms of the Will if there is one or the Rules of Intestacy if there is no Will. The person who is responsible for administering the Estate is known as a Personal Representative.
If there is a Will then the Will will generally appoint the Personal Representative and they are more commonly known as an executor (for a male) or an Executrix (for a female). If there is no Will then the Rules of Intestacy provide who is entitled to act as the Personal Representative and they are more commonly known as an Administrator (for a male) or an Administratrix (for a female).
Depending on the nature and extent of the Deceased’s assets, it may be necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation. In the case of a Will this is more accurately referred to as a Grant of Probate and on an intestacy it is known as a Grant of Letters of Administration. In the case of a Will the Personal Representatives authority will stem from the Will itself. In the case of an intestacy the Rules of Intestacy determine who has the legal authority to act as Administrators. However in either case it is the Grant of Probate or the Grant of Letters of Administration which is a legal document issued and sealed by the High Court that will prove to asset holders that the Personal Representatives individually named in the Grant of Representation have the legal right to receive and deal with the assets of the Deceased. It is for this reason that many asset holders will refuse to close accounts, liquidise or realise an asset until such time as they have had sight of a sealed copy of the Grant of Representation.
Do I need probate?
It very much depends on the size and nature of the Deceased’s Estate. Generally speaking (but not always) joint assets will pass to the surviving co-owner of the asset automatically without the need for a Grant of Representation. Certain assets such as personal belongings can be transferred to a beneficiary just by physically handing them over. If the Estate is a “small estate” then a Grant is not always needed. However where the Deceased held land in their sole name or jointly with a co-owner as tenants in common, or had savings and investments or stocks and shares then you will generally need to obtain a Grant.
What is a Small Estate?
Where the value of the Deceased’s Estate is £5,000 or less then generally speaking a Grant will not be required to be able to realise the assets. Some financial institutions have raised this limit so it is always worth talking to them to see if they require a Grant.
What if there isn't a will?
If the Deceased died without making a Will then the Deceased is said to have died INTESTATE. The law determines who is entitled to benefit from the Estate and who is entitled to take out a Grant of Letters of Administration. Click here for a Diagram Summarising the Intestacy Rules.
How do I get probate?
Obtaining a Grant of Representation is a formal legal process which involves making an application to a special division of the High Court called the Probate Registry. You don’t necessarily need to employ a Solicitor but for lots of reasons and in particular peace of mind it is a good idea to use a professional even if it is just to get the Grant. Take a look at our Bronze, Silver and Gold services and see how we can help you.
How long does probate take?
There is no set answer to this question because it varies in every case and very much depends on the complexity of the Deceased’s financial affairs and how long it takes to assimilate all of the information that is needed to make the application for the Grant. Even when you have obtained a Grant it can take many months to finalise the administration.
What does probate cost?
Costs vary from case to case. We recognise that people want to know where they stand on the issue of costs so that there are no unpleasant surprises. This is why we have created 3 unique fixed price packages starting at just £495 plus VAT.
*Prices exclusive of VAT and Disbursements