What is Probate? Your Questions Answered

Probate is the process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died, which generally means clearing their debts and distributing their assets in accordance with their will.  In most circumstances, it will be for the Executor or Executors named in the will to administer probate, or to instruct solicitors to administer probate on their behalf.

At the outset, all relevant third parties should be notified, and they will provide detailed information to assist in ascertaining all estate assets, and also any liabilities of the estate. This information will be used to calculate any inheritance tax that might be owed from the estate.

The Grant of Probate Process…

To manage the probate process a Grant of Probate will need to be applied for.  The application is submitted to the Probate Registry, a division of His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.

What happens if someone dies without a Will?

If someone dies without leaving a will, known as dying intestate, Letters of Administration are applied for instead and the estate is then distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy.  This means that the estate will pass to a surviving spouse or civil partner.

What happens if there is no surviving spouse?

If there is no surviving spouse the estate will be distributed in a strict order.  If there are children, they will inherit all of the estate in equal shares.  If a child has already died, their children will inherit their share of the estate and so on.

What this means in reality is that certain individuals may not inherit, including stepchildren, therefore we strongly advocate the instruction of a solicitor to draft your Will to ensure that it reflects your wishes and is legally valid.

Applying for Probate

Our current experience is that most applications for probate are issued by the Probate Registry within 16 weeks.  It can take longer than that if further information is required.

It is important to note that any estate property cannot be sold prior to probate being issued.

In certain circumstances, probate can be contested, which could stop the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration from being issued.  This situation could arise if the validity of someone’s Will is questioned i.e. where is it alleged that the person making that Will didn’t have the requisite capacity at the time of executing, or in other words signing, their Will.

Speak to our Wills & Probate team today

If you wish to discuss Probate with a member of our expert team, please contact us on 0191 2503200 or email probate@browells.co.uk.

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