If someone you know has died, and you have been asked to deal with their affairs, you need to be able to prove that you have the legal right to do this. Otherwise, you will run into difficulties when trying to access their bank accounts or sell their property and belongings. The most common way to prove your legal right to act is to apply for a grant of probate, as Ann Corke, wills and probate partner with Humphries Kirk in Swanage explains.
What is a grant of probate?
Obtaining a grant of probate is the legal process you need to go through to be recognised as having the legal right to deal with someone’s affairs after they have died. Depending on the circumstances, a grant of probate is sometimes referred to as a grant of representation or a grant of letters of administration (with or without a will).
To prove probate has been granted, you will receive a legal document which confirms your authority to collect in and distribute the money, property and possessions of the deceased person, collectively known as their ‘estate’.
Do I need a grant of probate?
You may not need a grant of probate if:
However, advice should always be sought to determine whether probate is necessary in any given case. This is particularly important as some banks and building societies require a grant of probate for estates worth more than £5,000, and others insist on it irrespective of value.
Can anyone apply?
Anyone named in the deceased’s will as an executor can apply for a grant of probate.
Where no will exists, a family member can make the application instead.
Sometimes, disputes arise where more than one person is entitled to apply. This is particularly common where there is no will and family members are concerned that they may not be dealt with fairly. In this situation it is possible, if you are aged 18 or over, to register a restriction (called a ‘caveat’) to stop probate being issued until the dispute has been resolved. To do this you need to submit an application for a caveat to the Probate Registry and pay a fee, currently set at £20. Once in place, the caveat will last for six months.
What is the process?
To obtain a grant of probate you will need to:
Providing your application is successful, you can expect to receive the grant of probate within ten working days of the oath being sworn.
What happens once a grant has been made
Once the grant of probate has been issued, you can use it to gain access to the deceased person’s bank accounts and to collect in, sell and distribute their assets. However, before paying any money out, you need to ensure any debts owed are settled, including the payment of any outstanding inheritance tax.