Find out what probate is and how it works with a Will
What is probate?
When a person dies, someone has to deal with their estate, which typically involves any money, property and possessions left. Probate is the court’s authority given to one or more persons to deal with a deceased person’s affairs, called administering the estate. This is why having a Will is important as it allows you to appoint someone you trust with this responsibility.
Why do I need probate?
Probate is needed to deal with the legal proceedings and financial affairs of the deceased. Typically if your estate is worth over £5,000 or includes assets other than cash then probate may be needed.
In cases where there is a Will, probate is given in the form of a legal document called a Grant of Probate, which allows you to deal with the deceased’s estate as instructed in their Will. If there is no Will, the legal document you need to administer the estate is called a Grant of Letters of Administration. Both documents are issued by the Probate Service, which forms part of the Family Division of the High Court.
Who can get the Grant of Probate?
It will usually be the executor (person) appointed named in a Will that can get the grant to sort out the wishes of the deceased. If no-one is named in the Will, or the person named is unwilling or unable to act, anyone over 18 who is named in the Will to receive some or all of the estate can apply. There can be more than one executor.
How do I apply for probate?
You can either apply yourself or through a solicitor.
You can do it yourself if you are an executor, or if there is no Will and the law appoints you as administrator. The process involves swearing an oath that you will administer the estate in accordance with the law, and attending the probate registry in person.
Administering an estate can take a lot of time and leave yourself open to legal liabilities from any mistakes you make. This is why some people prefer hiring a solicitor to deal with probate. If you go through a solicitor any legal costs are covered by the estate.
What is involved with administering an estate?
Everything owned by the deceased is known as their estate, which may consist of money (in a bank, building society, life insurance policy), payments owed to the deceased, property, and personal possessions.
The main responsibilities of administering an estate include:
- Valuing the assets
- Paying for the funeral
- Collecting the assets
- Paying off bills and/or debts
- Recovering payments due to the deceased
- Transferring property
- Preparing the estate account (an official record of what came in, what was paid out and what happened to the rest)
- Distributing the money, property and possessions.
Choosing someone to deal with your Estate when you pass away is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. The legal complexities of probate can be hard work and it’s important to choose someone you can trust, and who is willing and able to do it.
You can read our guide to Wills to find out everything you need to know about making a Will.