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Whilst saving money during your lifetime is obviously important, some of the hardest financial decisions need to be made at the hardest times in people’s lives – when a relative or loved-one passes away. Hopefully the following will help you understand the idea of “probate” to make one aspect of this difficult process a little easier.
What is probate?
When someone dies, the people who are responsible for dealing with their estate will often have to apply for a grant of probate. This allows them to have the legal authority to administer the estate of the deceased person. It’s important if you are the executor of someone’s will (or their next of kin if they have died without leaving a will) that you know what probate is.
Simply defined, probate is the right to deal with someone’s estate when they have died. Depending on the circumstances, there are different types of grants of probate (or representation, as it’s also known).
A grant of probate is an order of the Court giving one or more people the legal authority to administer the estate of the deceased in order to distribute it correctly to the beneficiaries.
When people are named in the Grant of Representation they become legally responsible and liable for the administration of the estate of the deceased. Consequently, the decision of who is named for probate is a very important one.
In order for an estate to be administered correctly, there is a series of tax, legal and administrative activities that need to be carried out – collectively these activities are known as probate. All the assets of the deceased have to be accounted for. All their debts and tax liabilities need to be settled. Contact has to be made with several organisations including HMRC, the Courts, and various financial institutions.
Then, the remainder of the estate has to be distributed among the beneficiaries according to the instructions contained in the will of the deceased or, if they died without making a will, according to the Rules of Intestacy.
How long does it take?
The length of time probate takes depends on the individual situation. Usually, though, it’s around six to nine months.
Is probate complicated?
Most people employ a solicitor to help guide them through the process of probate as it can be complicated. The person named in the Grant of Representation is responsible and liable for any mistakes that are made during the process, which is why people often choose to employ a solicitor to deal with the detail. Given the possible liabilities from mistakes, and the difficulty of this process at an already tough time, discussing with a solicitor is often a wise decision.
Is probate always necessary?
In some cases, probate is not required. Examples would be if the estate passes to the surviving spouse or partner and all assets were held in joint names or if the estate doesn’t include shares, land or property. It will still be necessary to contact the bank or building society that holds the money and you may be required to provide a death certificate after the death has been registered.
Generally, it is a lot easier for an executor or the next of kin dealing with someone’s estate to have the help of a solicitor or at least to seek legal advice to decide whether they need to apply for a grant of representation.