What is probate

After someone dies someone must administer their estate (any assets, debts or possessions they have left behind). Probate is the process of dealing with the affairs of a person who has died (administering their estate). This involves first applying to the Probate Service for the authority to administer the deceased’s estate.

Applying for Probate

Applying for the authority to administer the deceased’s estate almost always involves obtaining a ‘Grant of Representation’. A ‘Grant of Representation’ is the term used to cover both ‘Grant of Probate’ and ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ which are legal documents granting authority to an Administrator or Executor.

This is because the relevant authority holding the deceased’s assets such as the bank or building society will not transfer control of the assets without the sight of the relevant Grant of Representation. However if the estate is small you may find that a smaller company or organisation will release the funds at their discretion upon sight of the death certificate. For a fee you can have your solicitor apply for probate on your behalf or you can complete the relevant forms yourself which are available from HMRC.

Alternatively if you are named as an executor in the will but do not wish to (or cannot) apply for Probate you can appoint someone else to apply for it (other than your solicitor). This involves the person you have appointed (called an ‘Attorney’) filling in the relevant form and sending it to the Probate Registry together with a signed letter from yourself explaining you are giving them permission to apply for Probate.

Grant of Probate

If you are an executor in the deceased’s will you will need to apply to the Probate Service for a legal document called a ‘Grant of Probate’. This confirms you have the right to deal with the deceased’s affairs. You can then use it to sort out the deceased’s finances and distribute assetsin accordance with the will.

Grant of Letters of Administration

If the deceased left no will behind this is known as dying Intestate. In these situations a close relative can apply to the Probate Service for a document called a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’. If the ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ is given it acts in much the same way as a ‘Grant of Probate’ giving the holder the authority to administer the deceased’s estate. In some cases when the deceased has left no will Probate will only be granted if more than one person agrees to administer the estate.

Inheritance Tax (IHT) when applying for Probate

Personal Representatives (Executors/Administrators) will find that a Grant of Representation will often not be granted unless Inheritance Tax is first paid on the deceased’s estate. Inheritance Tax is only due in a relatively small number of cases when the deceased’s estate is over the IHT threshold.

Probate Scams

You should be aware that there are a number of Probate scams being performed online via e-mail. Most will claim to be the beneficiary in a substantial estate and will ask for an upfront fee to be paid to them electronically. It goes without saying that under no circumstances should you send any money. You should report such fraudulent e-mails to the Police so the e-mail accounts can be shut down.