Dealing with the death of a loved one can be difficult enough without the stress of sorting out their estate and financial affairs. So, we thought we’d share with you all of the FAQs we’re often asked…
What is Probate?
Probate is a term used for the process of obtaining the legal right to deal with a deceased person’s estate and affairs.
If you find yourself in a position whereby you are responsible for someone’s estate following their death, you will probably need to apply for a Grant of Representation.
What is a Grant of Representation?
This is the umbrella term for the two different types of Grants you can apply for in order to take control of an estate. Which one you will need to apply for will depend on the circumstances;
Grant of Probate – If the deceased person had a Will, this task normally passes over to the executor of the Will, but it is necessary for the Executor to first obtain permission for Probate. So, if you are named in the Will as an executor, you can apply for a Grant of Probate.
Grant of Letters of Administration – If the deceased person is intestate (without a Will), the process is different. This may be either because they have not left a Will, or because the Will has been ruled as invalid due to some irregularity. If you wish to be able to manage the person’s assets in this case, you must apply for Grant of Letters of Administration in order to be appointed as Administrator of the estate. This is also the case if there is a Will, but no Executor is named or available. So, if there is no Will, you can apply for Grant of Letters of Administration.
How do I know if Probate is required?
There are cases in which Probate is not required for a Will, which makes the process quicker and simpler.
One case is where all assets, whether property, cash or shares, are owned jointly with someone else, this may be the case, for example, with a married couple. The deceased person’s share passes automatically to the partner without Probate.
Another is if the estate consists only of a small amount of money or premium bonds. This is normally the case if the assets are less than £5,000, though some banks and building societies will release a higher amount without a Grant of Probate. It is advisable to check this out with each relevant organisation before starting the process.
How do I apply for Probate?
The first step, once you have established that you are entitled to apply for Probate, is to obtain valuations of the assets such as property, bank accounts etc. This will establish whether Probate is likely to be required, as well as whether the estate may be subject to Inheritance Tax. As we have seen, if this is the case it becomes more urgent to proceed quickly.
You can apply for Probate either online or by post, but either way a fee will be payable. You will need to send vital documents, so ensure you send them by a secure system that is tracked and requires a signature on delivery. The death certificate will be returned to you, but you will not get the Will back, so you may wish to make a copy for your own records.
If the Will has been changed or damaged in any way, it is essential to include a letter explaining the reasons for this. Failure to explain this adequately could result in the Will being declared invalid
Is there a time limit for applying for Probate?
There is no time limit in applying for Probate, and you will not be legally penalised for any delay. However, there are reasons why you will want to apply as early as possible.
Firstly, if the Will is subject to Inheritance Tax, it must be paid within six months from the date of death, and financial penalties could be imposed if this deadline is not met. If Probate has not been granted within this time, you may need to pay the tax out of your own pocket, although you will be able to recover it once Probate has been granted. There may also be a time limit for filing Inheritance Tax returns. Even if this is not the case, the Will is not settled until this is done.
Secondly, you will be unable to distribute bequests to the beneficiaries until Probate is granted. You may be a beneficiary yourself, but even if not, the beneficiaries could sue you or have you replaced if they feel you are taking longer than is reasonable to obtain Probate.
Do I need a solicitor to apply for Probate?
Applying for Probate is a crucial legal process, and making a mistake could have far-reaching consequences. While the application system is open for anyone to use, it is advised to use an expert lawyer who specialises in Wills and Probate. The specialist will be able to guide you throughout the process and give you the peace of mind of knowing that the correct procedures are being followed at all times.
How we can help
It might seem as though there are lots of decisions to make when you’re planning for the future. But our expert Probate team of solicitors in Bedfordshire are here to help. We can help throughout the process of Probate and are happy to answer any questions you may have.