A brief guide to probate

Probate is a term that is used in several different ways, sometimes referred to as ‘administering the estate’, below is A brief guide to probate explaining the probate process.

Probate is the legal process of obtaining a “grant of Probate” which gives a person the right to deal with a deceased person’s affairs, as indicated in their will. To put it simply, the probate process involves gathering information about the estate and completing a set of probate and inheritance tax applications and providing them to the necessary courts who will issue a grant of probate. Probate solicitors can help an executor, the person responsible for undertaking this work, execute their duties and also advise on a living person’s will.

If the person who has died leaves a valid will, then the executor may need to go through the probate process to apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’ from the courts, depending on the assets they owned and their value. The grant is a legal document that verifies that the executor has the authority to deal with any property, money or possessions left by the deceased.

If the person who died has not left a will, a close relative can go through the probate process to apply to the section of the court known as the Probate Registry, for a ‘Grant of Letters Administration’. If the grant is given, the applicant becomes an Administrator of the Estate. Similarly to the Grant of Probate, the Grant of Letters Administration is a legal document, confirming the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.

The probate process allows your estate to be collected and dispersed in the correct manner and prevents someone who is not entitled from accessing the estate. Any outstanding debts and taxes must be paid before any inheritance is distributed to the beneficiaries. A Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters Administration is nearly always required. It applies in the following situations:

– If the deceased has property solely in their name or as tenants in common
– If the deceased leaves assets or money totalling of £5,000 or more
– If the deceased has stocks or shares
– If the deceased had certain insurance policies

There are circumstances in which it is not necessary to go through the probate process, and that is only when the person who has passed away has left assets of low value (generally less £5,000) or their assets were owned jointly with another person. When this is the case those jointly owned assets will pass over to the surviving owner.

Probate will only be granted if the will’s executor has paid off some, or all of the Inheritance Tax due on the estate.

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