What Is Probate?

The basic definition of Probate is the official proving of a Will, however, there is more to Probate than just the Will. It is a legal process providing a document to the named Executor or Administrators allowing them the authorization to handle the estate of the deceased. Of course, if no Executor has been named, or no Will exists, then Probate allows for the appointment of an Administrator.

Probate can be a relatively simple process, yet for most people, it is only dealt with once in their life, therefore making it a confusing issue. It can become a complex issue if there are children, surviving spouses or trusts have been created. Probate professionals or solicitors are always available and happy to help a named Executor in the handling of Probate.

Of course, being named Executor does not mean you are required by law to act as the Executor of a Will. Being named Executor means that the deceased has trusted you enough to manage the business of ‘executing’ their wishes as outlined within their Will. The basics of ‘executing a Will’ is the sharing out of assets as outlined in the Will, dealing with any arising complications and ensuring the last wishes of the deceased are met.

If there is no Executor named, or there is no Will, then an application needs to be made for Probate to be entered into in order for an Administrator to be appointed. An Administrator is generally a blood relative or someone that would otherwise have inherited from the deceased’s Estate. The Administrator would generally perform the same tasks as an Executor of the Will.

Probate is a useful process to go through, although it may not actually be required by many people. When assets are simple to assess such as a single bank account in a single name, banks can offer simple and easy processes to access the account. Each Financial situation may have its own procedures and may require the simple production of the Death Certificate or they may still require a “Grant”.

Small Estates with no land, property or shares held by the deceased; or spouses being the sole beneficiary of an Estate with accounts in joint names can also be a situation where Probate is unnecessary.

If an Estate is over the value of £5,000 then a Grant of Probate is legally required before the Estate can be distributed. The Probate Registry will also need to formally recognise the Will. The deceased’s home would not be able to be sold and all Insurance Companies, Building Societies and Banks would insist on seeing a “Grant of Probate” before paying out to the beneficiaries. Additionally, if the Estate is valued over £325,000 the Estate is subject to inheritance tax. The Executor of the Will is personally liable for all debts, so professional advice is highly recommended.

How Long Does Probate Last?

There is no set time-frame for how long Probate will last. On average Probate requires about eighty working hours which can take place between six and nine months. The time that the Executor or Administrators can make available to the ‘execution’ of a Will can also reflect on the length of time Probate takes.

Complications can arise that extend the period of Probate. Estates that are large or complex, with multiple assets to be evaluated and distributed accordingly. Unclear records kept by the deceased person can slow down Probate whilst investigations into their Estate are made to establish a clear list of all assets and liabilities. It is also possible for a Will to be contested, in which case it would not be unheard of for Probate to last beyond several years.

More detailed information on Probate can be found on the UK Government’s website which states that the process is known as either “Probate” or a “Grant of Representation” in England and Wales. In Scotland it is known as “Confirmation” and in Ireland, it is referred to as a “Grant of Probate” and the basic steps are as follows:

* Check for a Will and see if the Executor is named. If there is either no Will or there is no named Executor, then the next of kin is responsible for applying for Probate.

* In order to legally access the deceased’s accounts, banks etc, you need to apply for the “Grant of Representation” otherwise referred to as “Grant of Probate”, “Letters of Administration” or “Letters of Administration with a Will”.

* If any inheritance tax is due, this must be paid.

* Collect any Estate assets, such as any monies from the sale of any property if required.

* Any debts or liabilities such as unpaid utility bills need to be paid.

* The distribution of the Estate to the beneficiaries can now take place.