Probate: What is it?

The concept of probate and estate administration can be difficult to get your head around if you haven’t encountered it before.

Probate is the process of administering an estate after someone has passed away. But not every person’s estate requires probate.

You may not need probate if the person who died jointly owned their estate – property, land, money or shares. You may also not need it if the person only had savings or premium bonds.

What does probate mean?

Probate is the term used to explain the process necessary to deal with the estate of someone who has died.

According to the government, “applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) when they die is called ‘applying for probate’.”

After probate has been granted, you can deal with the estate of the person who died. This will be according to their wishes if they left a Will or letting the law decide if they died intestate – without a Will.

Who can arrange probate?

Not everyone connected with a person who died can apply for probate. Who will be able to depends on whether there is a Will or not.

When the person who has died has written a Will and named an executor, this person can apply for probate. The executor will then have to apply for a grant of probate. In order to apply for probate, you’ll need the original Will, as well as any updates.

If there is no Will, someone who has been named the next of kin – or a close relative – can apply for letters of administration. This will prove that you have the legal right to handle the estate. You can apply to become to administrator of the estate if you were the spouse, civil partner or child of the person who died.

How does probate work?

The first thing you should do is locate the Will of the person who has died – if there is one. You can do so by contacting the person’s solicitor, bank or local probate registry. You can also search online for probate records.

The named executor can then apply for grant of probate to collect the person’s assets, pay any debts and carry out other duties associated with the administration process.

You can apply for probate online provided you have the original Will, original death certificate (or an interim death certificate from the coroner) and you have already reported the estate’s value.

Valuing the estate involves finding out about the assets and debts of the person who died and estimating the value of the estate. You should then report the value to HMRC.

How long does probate take?

For straightforward probate applications, you can expect it to take between four and eight weeks to get a grant of probate.

The process of valuing the estate can typically take between six and nine months – but it can be longer for more complicated estates, such as those involving trusts or if there is tax to be paid.

In the majority of cases, the entire probate process can take between nine and 12 months.

If you need help applying for probate or if you are dealing with a probate dispute, a specialist solicitor can manage the process for you. To find out how First4Lawyers can help you find a probate lawyer, just give us a call, request a call back or make an enquiry online.


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