When we die someone needs to take responsibility for dealing with our affairs, including organising our funeral, settling our debts and passing on gifts of money, property or possessions in accordance with the terms of our will or the rules of intestacy when no will has been made. This is known as probate.
In this article, Gail Hall, wills and probate expert at Warners Solicitors in Kent explains how the first step in this process usually involves applying for a grant of probate once the value of the estate has been established.
‘Dealing with someone’s affairs after they have died is a big responsibility and there needs to be a process in place to ensure that the person who assumes this responsibility was either handpicked for the role by the deceased person themselves or had an extremely close connection to them’, explains Gail. ‘This process is called ‘grant of probate’, if there is a will or ‘grant of letters of administration’ if the deceased died without a will.
What is a grant of probate?
A grant of probate is a legal document which confirms your authority to deal with a person’s affairs after they have died. It is sometimes referred to as a grant of representation.
Is a grant of probate always required?
The answer to this question is, in theory, ‘no’ as strictly speaking there is no need for a grant of probate if:
- everything the deceased person owned was in joint names with someone else and therefore automatically passed to the surviving joint owner at the time of death;
- the deceased person did not own any property, land or shares; or
- the value of their estate is less than £15,000.
However, in reality, most banks and other financial institutions insist on a grant of probate being obtained before they will release any money. National Savings and Investments often require a grant if the deceased held premium bonds.
If you are uncertain we can advise you on whether a grant of probate will be required.
How can I get a grant of probate?
To obtain a grant of probate, you first need to determine whether you are eligible to apply. An application can be made by anyone named as an executor in the deceased will. Where no will exists, an application can be made by the next of kin. An application cannot be made by a person’s long-term partner if they were not married or in a civil partnership.
Assuming you are eligible, you will need to:
- complete a probate application form;
- work out the value of the estate taking account of assets and liabilities at the date of death and work out if any inheritance tax needs to be paid and complete an inheritance tax form;
- pay any inheritance tax due;
- provide a copy of the death certificate and will (if one exists);
- pay a fee if the estate is worth £5,000 or more;
- swear an oath confirming the accuracy of the information given; and
- submit your application to the local Probate Registry
How long will I have to wait for a grant of probate to be issued?
Provided your application is successful, you should receive the grant of probate within ten working days of the oath being sworn. If for some reason the Probate Registry decides that a grant should not be issued to you, you will be contacted in writing and told the reason for this. Refusal of an application might be made where someone else with a closer connection to the deceased person has already applied or where someone has registered a restriction (known as a ‘caveat’) to stop a grant of probate being issued while a dispute about who should be responsible for dealing with the estate is resolved.
If you need help applying for a grant of probate, or in dealing with the estate of a loved one, please contact Gail Hall, a partner in our Probate and Estates team, on 01732 375384 or email [email protected] to find out how we can help.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.