Following a bereavement, there are a number of tasks that need to be considered and completed which can make an already difficult time even more stressful. The things you might need to consider is whether you need probate, what’s involved in the probate process and if you need a probate solicitor. In this blog post, we aim to answer these queries and take away the confusion that surrounds this topic.

What is probate?

Probate is a Latin term meaning to ‘prove’ the last Will and Testament as a valid public document and it could be required when someone passes away. Probate is referred to as the Grant of Probate in England and Wales or Confirmation in Scotland. Executors named in a Will can apply for probate and by obtaining the Grant of Probate from the probate registry, the Executors have the authority to act in the administration of the estate. To obtain the Grant of Probate, there is a set government fee of £215 if the value of the estate is £5,000 or over, or no fee if the estate is under £5,000. Over the years, probate has become synonymous for dealing with the affairs of someone who has died. However, probate is just one small component of administering the estate.

Do I need probate?

Probate is required by law when the deceased leaves a valid Will and owns a property (including any houses, buildings or land) or if a financial institution (such as a bank) requires a Grant of Probate to release funds. However, probate will not be needed if the assets were held jointly as they will automatically pass to the surviving spouse or civil partner.

So, not every estate will require probate but one thing that all estates do require is estate administration. Estate administration is the process of dealing with a person’s legal and tax affairs after they have passed away. This means dealing with all of their assets (such as property, shares and personal possessions), paying any debts, paying Inheritance Tax and Income Tax and transferring inheritance to the beneficiaries of the estate. Read more about estate administration here.

What if the deceased didn’t leave a Will?

If there is no Will, a close relative of the deceased can apply to deal with the estate at the probate registry. They would then apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration and if the Grant is given, they are known as ‘Administrators’ of the estate. Like the Grant of Probate, the Grant of Letters of Administration is a legal document that confirms the Administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.

What’s involved in obtaining the Grant of Probate?

  • Completing the probate application
    In England and Wales, the probate application includes completing a PA1P (if there is a Will) or a PA1A (if there is no Will). An Inheritance Tax form will also need to be submitted to HMRC.
  • Submitting the application to the probate registry
    You’ll then need to send all the details, including the death certificate, to the probate registry. You can also apply for probate online if you have the original Will and death certificate, and you have already reported the estate’s value. If applying online, you will need to send your documents by post after submitting the application.
  • Completing a “statement of truth”
    You will be asked to complete a mandatory statement of truth during your online or postal application, promising that you have been truthful in your application for the Grant of Probate.

What to do next: do I need a probate solicitor?

We recommend that you seek professional legal advice but this doesn’t need to be from a solicitor. In fact, many solicitors only deal with a small number of estates each year and therefore, don’t possess specialist knowledge of this area of the law.

You can also decide to deal with the estate yourself, however, it is a time consuming and labour intensive process that involves complicated legal work, tax calculations and paperwork. Executors and Administrators are also legally responsible for administering the estate and will be personally liable for any mistakes or oversights.

Another route you can take is appointing a professional to administer the estate on your behalf. When choosing to do so, we recommend looking for a clear and straightforward fixed fee based on the amount of work involved, rather than a fee based on a percentage of the estate value.

Kenton Baker Estate Planning Practitioners use award-winning probate and estate administration specialists. We provide probate and estate administration services to people all across the UK, taking on the legal and financial responsibility. We will take care of all the complicated matters after death so you can focus on life’s important moments.

Kenton Baker Estate Planning Practitioners can offer you free legal advice with no obligation.