What Is A Grant Of Probate?
When a loved one dies, those left behind are often unsure how to deal with their estate. Concepts such as inheritance tax, estate administration and probate can seem confusing and overwhelming, often further complicating an already acutely stressful situation. Questions abound; what is a Grant of Probate? Do I need one? If so, how can I obtain one? We are here to help. Our experienced probate solicitors will relieve the burden of the administrative tasks that need to be executed following your loved one’s death, providing straightforward advice with empathy and understanding.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the process through which the estate of a deceased person is administered, and their affairs finalised. It involves settling any debts and liabilities and distributing the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries.
The Grant of Probate is the formal document issued by the Court permitting the executors of an estate to carry out their duties. The executors are ordinarily named in the Will and might be friends or family members of the deceased, or professional executors.
What Is The Purpose Of A Grant Of Probate?
Executors derive their powers from the Will itself as opposed to the Grant of Probate, and there are some circumstances in which obtaining a Grant of Probate might not be necessary. These include where the deceased owned all of their assets jointly, with a spouse for example. Some banks or building societies will release funds below a specified amount without seeing a Grant of Probate, but the limits vary between financial institutions and might be as high as £50,000.
Often, however, a Grant of Probate will be required before the executors can administer the estate. Executors cannot deal with estate property until they have obtained one, and the Court will not grant any Orders applied for without proof of the executor’s authority, as evidenced by the Grant.
What Is The Process For Obtaining A Grant Of Probate?
The application process for a Grant of Probate is relatively straightforward and can usually be carried out online. However, before the application is made, the executors need to carry out a number of preparatory tasks, which can involve complex issues of tax and law.
Firstly, the executors need to value the estate. The extent of any debts and liabilities needs to be ascertained, and all assets valued. The executors should write to the banks and building societies at which the deceased held accounts, as well as any other relevant institutions such as insurance companies. Professional valuations of all properties need to be arranged.
Once the value of the estate has been calculated, the executors must establish the extent of any inheritance tax liability. Inheritance tax is charged at a rate of 40% on the part of the estate that exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold, currently £325,000. At least some of the inheritance tax must be paid before probate will be granted, and the executors cannot distribute the estate until the inheritance tax liability has been satisfied.
When all preliminary work has been completed, the executors can apply for the Grant of Probate. The current processing time is around 16 weeks, although an application can be delayed if problems arise from matters such as incorrect or incomplete information being provided. It is advisable to seek the assistance of specialist probate solicitors where possible to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.
Upon receipt of the Grant of Probate, the executors can proceed to administer the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. Debts and liabilities must be settled before the remainder of the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. This is often a straightforward case of dividing the estate per the terms of the Will but can be complicated if the Will is disputed or a beneficiary cannot be located.
Do I Need A Solicitor To Obtain A Grant Of Probate?
No, there is no requirement to use a solicitor or any other professional when applying for a Grant of Probate. However, executors often have extensive, arduous duties and can be held personally liable when things go wrong. As a result, many elect to seek assistance from experienced probate solicitors to help them navigate the probate process. Our specialist probate team have years of experience assisting executors at all stages of probate. They will provide comprehensive advice and never confuse you with legal jargon but, instead ensure you fully understand each step of the process and carry out your duties properly. Our firm policy is to provide the highest standard of legal advice in the most cost-effective way, and we will keep you updated on costs throughout the matter.