Probate UK Explained
We have put together this page to help you understand probate more fully. We have included information such as who is responsible for carrying out probate, what to do if there is or is not a will, the appointment and responsibilities of an Executor and much more. Have a read through and hopefully we will have answered many of the questions that were playing on your mind.
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Probate UK Explained
What is Probate?
The person who carries out probate is known as the ‘Executor’, and is usually nominated in the deceased’s will. There can be more than one executor and contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to be a beneficiaries of the will.
An executor will often be a family member or a trusted friend of the deceased. However, it is sometimes necessary to appoint a professional executor who will often be a solicitor or professional will writer. In some cases, the next of kin or ‘Executor of the Will’ may have to apply for Probate before anyone can claim, transfer, sell or distribute any of the deceased’s property.
Before probate is undertaken, a ‘Grant of Probate’ or ‘Letters of Administration’ must be obtained.
Like the grant of probate, the grant of ‘letters of administration’ is a legal document which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with assets belonging to the deceased.
In some cases such as where the beneficiary is a child, the law states that more than one person must act as the administrator.
You might also come across the term grant of representation which is a general term used for grants of probate and the granting of letters of administration.
What If There Is No Will?
In the UK, (England and Wales), when someone dies without a Will, the ‘Rules of Intestacy’ apply. This means the deceased’s relatives are lined up in an order of priority and the estate is shared accordingly. So if, for example, their husband, wife or civil partner is still alive, he/she will be the main beneficiary.
After a spouse or civil partner, the order of priority is as follows:
- Great grandchildren
- Nieces and nephews
- Other close relatives
When someone dies ‘intestate’, only a beneficiary is allowed to apply for Probate. This person will be known as an ‘Administrator’, as opposed to an Executor where a Will exists.
The Administrator must apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This is different to where a will exists where the Executor must apply for a Grant of Probate. Otherwise the process is the same. However, in this case, the Estate will be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy, not the terms of the Will.
It is hard to determine how long it will take to get a Grant of Probate and complete the Estate administration process as every Estate is different.
Applying For Probate
“Applying for Probate” means applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions/estate when they pass away. If the person left a will, you will get a ‘grant of probate’. If the person did not leave a will, you’ll get ‘letters of administration’. The process of application is the same for both, though The process is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
There are instances when you do not need to apply for probate. This is if the person who died:
- jointly owned land, property, shares or money, in which case, these will automatically pass to the surviving owners.
- Had only savings or premium bonds.
Here is a rundown of the steps of applying for probate:
- Check if there’s a will.
- Learn what to do if there’s no will.
- Make a Valuation of the estate and inform HMRC.
- Make the application for probate.
- Pay any Inheritance Tax due. Often, a portion of this must be paidbefore probate is carried out.
- Gather all proceeds from the sale of the person’s property.
- Pay off outstanding debts.
- Make a record of how proceeds will be split.
- Distribute the assets to the people named in the will.
Frequently Asked Questions
01. What is Probate?
02. How much does probate cost through a solicitor?
03. What happens if the will doesn’t appoint an Executor ?
04. How long do I have to contest a will?
05. What if there is no will?
06. What do I need to know about inheritance tax?
07. How long does probate take?
How Long Does The Process Take?
Should I use a solicitor for probate?
There are times you might want to think about using a probate specialist, such as if:
- The value of the estate is over the Inheritance Tax threshold.
- The estate is still earning a regular income and complicated taxes need to be paid. (The threshold for the 2016-17 tax year is £325,000).
- The deceased died without a will, and the estate looks to be complicated to administer.
- There are doubts about the validity of the will.
- The deceased had dependents who were deliberately left out of the will who might want to make a claim on the estate.
- The estate is bankrupt/insolvent/in administration, or;
- There are doubts that the estate is bankrupt.
- The deceased owned foreign property / assets.
- The deceased resided outside the UK for tax purposes.
This list is not exhaustive but gives a good idea of when a solicitor should be approached for probate services.