What is Probate?
After a person dies, one of the first things that needs to be done from a legal point of view, is understanding what’s been left behind (property, money, possessions), working out who gets what and find out who’s entitled to deal with the Estate.
If a valid Will has been left, this will usually appoint an Executor or Executors - the people who are entitled to apply for a Grant of Probate and deal with the Estate.
If there isn’t a valid Will or the deceased did not make a Will, then it’s usually a family member or next of kin who is entitled to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration and to deal with the Estate. There is a set list of who can deal with the Estate if there isn’t a Will and these are set out in the intestacy rules.
For free initial legal advice get in touch with our Probate Solicitors.
A Grant of Probate and a Grant of Letters of Administration are also often referred to interchangeably as a Grant of Representation. Both documents identify who has the authority to administer a deceased person’s Estate. The process of applying for a Grant of Representation is generally referred to as ‘Probate’.
The Probate Process
The Probate process in England and Wales can take between 9 months and a year or more to complete. You must estimate and report the Estate’s value before making an application for Probate. There are different tax forms to complete depending on whether or not any Inheritance Tax is payable. Whether any Inheritance Tax is due depends on the value in the Estate and if any Inheritance Tax is due, some of this normally has to be paid to HMRC before you can obtain Probate.
If you’re wanting to apply for a Grant of Probate, you’ll need to complete form PA1P. If you’re wanting to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, you’ll need to complete a form PA1A. If there is a Will, you’ll need to send the original Will and two photocopies to the Probate Registry (Court), as well as the relevant tax and application forms.
When the Probate application forms are prepared, these need to be sent to your local Probate Registry with the application fee (this fee only needs to be paid if the Estate is valued more than £5,000). If the Probate application forms are all correct, you should then receive the Grant of Representation within 20 days of the original documents being received by the Probate Registry.
Once you have the Grant of Representation, you should be able to access any assets (bank accounts, stocks and shares, premium bonds etc.) and pay off any outstanding debts (taxes, credit card bills etc.). You should also place a notice in The Gazette and/or local newspapers to give creditors the chance to claim anything they’re owed. This will protect you from responsibility for any debts.
Once all the deceased person’s debts have been paid, the Estate can be distributed either in accordance with the Will if there is one and if not in accordance with the intestacy rules.
After this, Estate accounts should be prepared. These should list all the assets and liabilities that have come in and been paid from the Estate. The Estate accounts should also identify who has received what from the Estate.
Applying for Probate without a Solicitor
It isn’t necessary to have a Solicitor assist when applying for Probate or with administering the Estate. However, many people instruct a Probate Solicitor, as you can be held liable for any mistakes made, there can be a lot of paperwork, you will have to deal with HMRC for Inheritance Tax and possibly for Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax, and chasing various banks, credit card companies and beneficiaries takes a lot of time.
Applying for Probate with a Solicitor
For free legal advice call our Probate Solicitors
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