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Although some people prefer to deal with probate on their own, few have the skills and time needed.
Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone has died, to make sure the estate is administered and distributed correctly, in accordance with their Last Will and Testament. The equivalent term where the deceased dies intestate, (ie. without a Will) is Grant of Letters of Administration, but the two terms are often used interchangeably as they will be in this article.
Probate involves valuing the assets of the estate, paying any outstanding debts and taxes, and dealing with, and then distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the Will (or, if there is no Will, according to the order of entitlement prescribed by law).
When someone dies, their assets are frozen until their Will is validated or the court determines how to distribute the assets according to the law. Probate is the process of applying for the legal authority to deal with the estate of the deceased person. This can involve:
Probate is usually required when a person dies, and their estate includes property, savings, shares, or other investments, which is worth more than approximately £10,000. There are some exceptions, such as if the assets are jointly owned or held in trust. If the deceased left a Will, the executor named in the Will is responsible for applying for Probate. If there is no will, then family members will be responsible for applying for Probate.
The process of Probate can be lengthy and complex, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. Some people may prefer to deal with Probate on their own, but few have the skills and time to do this properly. Disputes can arise between the executor, beneficiaries, creditors, Probate Registry, or tax authorities, which can cause delays. Dealing with Probate carries obligations and personal liabilities for those involved, who may not be fully aware of what is required of them. For this reason, we strongly advise that you seek the advice and assistance of a specialist Probate solicitor.
The experienced team at Price Slater Gawne works closely with families who require our expert advice and guidance. We deal with complex estates involving lifetime and death tax planning through gifting and trusts. We also deal with amendments to Wills to protect estates and make them more tax efficient. Whatever the size of the estate, whatever type of asset forms part of the estate, and whether the deceased died intestate or has a Will or trusts that need to be administered, our experienced Estate Administration specialists can help.
Our specialist team is experienced in many different aspects of Probate. If you would like to speak to a member of our team, please contact 03333 058375 or email WealthProtection@psg-law.co.uk.
Read our Probate FAQs below.
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Probate is required when a person dies, and their estate includes property, savings, shares, or other investments, and is worth more than approximately £10,000. The threshold can vary both higher and lower depending on the institution holding the deceased’s assets. In the absence of requiring Probate, some institutions will accept an indemnity from the Personal Representatives instead. This will be based on internal policy as opposed to the application of legal principle.
Jointly held assets or assets already held in trust do not require Probate. Likewise, most pensions and life insurance policies will be able to pass without first requiring Probate.
The process of Probate can be lengthy and complex, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, and there may be various legal and financial issues to address. The exact length of time will depend on the size and complexity of the estate, but it will generally take about a year with interim distributions possible from six months.
Whether or not you need to apply for Probate depends on the circumstances of the deceased person’s estate. Generally, you will need to apply for Probate if the estate includes property, shares or other investments, or savings and is worth more than £10,000. However, there are some exceptions, such as if the assets are jointly owned or held in trust. If the deceased person left a will, the executor in the Will is responsible for applying for Probate. If there is no Will, the next of kin or another family member may need to apply for Probate.
If the deceased left a Will, the executor named in the Will is responsible for applying for Probate. The executor is the person appointed to carry out the wishes of the deceased person as outlined in their Will. Executors can renounce or have powers reserved to them if they would prefer not to act. If there are no valid or surviving executors, then the order of eligibility to take out the grant follows the order of entitlement to the estate – ie. next of kin. Creditors are also able to take out a grant in certain circumstances.
When a person dies without leaving a valid Will, they are said to have died intestate. Their Personal Representatives apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration (which is broadly the same as a Grant of Probate). The identity of the Personal Representatives is governed by law and mirrors the order of entitlement to inherit – ie next of kin, etc. The process can be more complex and time consuming than if there was a valid Will, as the family tree will need to be established. In certain circumstances, creditors are able to take out the grant and administer the estate.
If a deceased person has left a Will, Personal Representatives (PRs) will be the Executors appointed by the Will: they will then distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will. The document issued by the court which establishes their right to deal with the estate is a Grant of Probate. If there is no Will, the PRs are Administrators, and the Court will issue a Grant of Letters of Administration. The distribution of the estate will then depend on the statutory intestacy rules.
Throughout the administration, it is the PRs who are responsible to third parties, including creditors, HM Revenue and Customs and the beneficiaries for the proper administration of the estate. The beneficiaries’ entitlement is a right to have the estate properly administered: they do not become entitled to the deceased’s assets until ownership is handed over to them by the PRs.
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