What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of dealing with someone’s estate after they die. It involves identifying and valuing their assets, paying any debts or taxes, and distributing what’s left to the beneficiaries named in the will (or, if there is no will, according to the rules of intestacy).

Probate is necessary to ensure that the deceased’s assets are distributed correctly and in accordance with their wishes or according to the rules of intestacy, whichever applies.

When Is Probate Required?

Probate is usually required when the deceased owned property or other assets in their own name, such as a house, bank accounts or investments.

If the deceased owned assets jointly with someone else then these assets may pass automatically to the surviving owner without the need for probate.

If the deceased had very little in the way of assets, then probate may not be necessary.

Every organisation has its own rules regarding probate, so you should contact the financial organisations involved, to find out if you’ll need probate to get access to the deceased’s assets.

Who Can Apply for Probate?

The executor named in the will is usually responsible for applying for probate.

If there is no will, or if the executor named in the will is unable or unwilling to act, then another close family member may be able to apply instead.

The person applying for probate must be over 18 and of sound mind.

How To Apply for Probate?

To begin the process of applying for probate is to value the deceased’s assets and calculate any debts or taxes owed.

The next step is to fill in the probate application form. This can be done either online or by post.

The form will ask for information about the deceased, their assets, and their beneficiaries, and may require supporting documentation such as the death certificate and the original will (if there is one).

Once the form is complete, it must be submitted to the Probate Registry along with the probate fee.

The processing fee is currently £273 for estates worth more than £5,000. For estates worth less than £5,000, there is no fee. Additional copies of the grant of probate cost £1.50.

The Role of The Executor

The executor’s role is to carry out the wishes of the deceased as set out in their will (or, if there is no will, to distribute the estate according to the rules of intestacy).

This involves managing the deceased’s assets, paying any debts or taxes owed, and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.

The executor is legally responsible for ensuring that the estate is distributed correctly, and can be held liable if they make mistakes or act improperly.

Up to four executors can be named on an application for probate and where there is more than one executor, you’ll all need to agree on who should apply.

You can give up your right to apply or appoint someone to act on your behalf, if you no longer want to be an executor.

Timeframe for Obtaining Probate

The timeframe for obtaining probate can vary depending on the complexity of the estate and any issues that arise during the process.

In the UK the time to get probate is around 16 weeks, but it can take longer if there are certain factors. For example these might include the size of the estate, the number of beneficiaries, and any disputes or challenges to the will.

What Happens After Probate Is Granted?

After probate is granted, the executor can start distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.

This involves transferring assets such as property or shares and paying out any cash legacies or gifts.

The executor may also need to deal with any outstanding debts or taxes before distributing the estate.

Common Issues and Challenges in Probate

Common problems that may arise during the probate process include disputes over the validity of the will, disputes between beneficiaries, and issues with valuing complex assets such as businesses or foreign property.

Other challenges may include dealing with creditors who are owed money by the deceased, or resolving any tax issues that arise.

It’s important for the executor to be aware of these potential issues and to seek professional advice if necessary.

Someone can also challenge your probate application (‘enter a caveat’) if for example there are issues over the will or challenging your validity to apply for probate.

Conclusion

Applying for probate is an important part of ensuring that the deceased’s estate is distributed correctly and in accordance with their wishes.

Executors should be prepared to spend time valuing assets, filling in forms, and dealing with any issues that arise.

Seeking professional advice from a solicitor or accountant can be helpful in navigating the probate process and avoiding potential problems.