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Applying for Probate when a loved one dies

I spend a lot of time with client’s and prospective client’s helping them understand the importance of making a Will. Putting effective Estate Planning solutions in place to ensure their loved ones are taken care of when they pass away. Although in the first instance many people do not like to talk about the subject of planning for their death, read my blog – whats your excuse?.

Once they have addressed the certainty of this event and their Will and Estate Planning is in place. Their minds are at rest and they can once again return to the lighter side of life, safe in the knowledge that they have prepared for this event.

As a worthwhile additional step in this process it is important to ensure that both loved ones that have been left behind and the people that have been nominated to carry out specific wishes, the “Executors” are aware of what is involved when you die in order for them to carry out the wishes effectively.

Losing a loved one or close friend can be a very stressful time. It’s likely that they will need to notify a lot of people in the first few days after your death. In addition to this, there are some immediate tasks that need to be carried out, for example arranging the funeral, there is a lot of paperwork that will need to be dealt with along with some official documents. One of the duties that may have to be carried out is applying for Probate.

Applying for Probate can be both daunting and time-consuming. This can often be a complex and extremely time-consuming process and needs to be carried out at a time when they may not feel able to perform this task. So preparing them with this info will help reduce some of the emotional stress that naturally occurs.

An Executor of an estate will need to:

  • Locate all the heirs and distribute the contents of the Will
  • Arrange for the care of any minor children and pets
  • Make an exhaustive list of all the assets and debts including utility bills
  • Settle all the deceased’s debts, paying any inheritance tax necessary

Within the first five days it is important that the following is done:

  • Notify the deceased’s Family Doctor
  • Contact a Funeral Director to commence funeral arrangements ( check any Will for any special requests or Pre-Paid Funeral plans that may have already been made)
  • Register the death at The Registry Office
  • Advise any departments who may have been making payments to the deceased, such as Tax Credits, benefits, pensions etc
  • Contact relatives and people close to the deceased
  • Contact the Executors of any Will to enable them to start the process of obtaining Probate
  • If there is no Will then you should decide who will apply to sort out the deceased’s affairs and apply for Letters of Administration

Who can deal with the deceased person’s estate?

Often a close relative of a spouse, child or parent will have the legal right to sort out the estate of the person who has died. In order to be able to administer someone’s estate you normally need to apply to the Probate Registry for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’.

If the person who has died leaves a Will

In this case, one or more ‘executors’ may be named in the will to deal with the person’s affairs after their death. An executor applies for a ‘grant of probate’ from a section of the court known as the probate registry. The grant is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets. It can be used to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased person’s assets as set out in the will.

What if the person who has died hasn’t left a Will?

If there is no will, this means the person has died intestate more about the Law of Intestacy.
A close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate. In this case, they apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. 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 which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets. When someone dies without leaving a will, dealing with their estate can be complicated. It can also take a long time – months or even years in some very complex cases.

When a grant is needed

A grant is almost always needed when the person who dies leaves one or more of the following:

  • Property or land held in their own name or as ‘tenants in common
  • Cash assets of £5,000 or more
  • Certain insurance policies

In most of these cases, the bank or relevant institution will need to see the grant before they can transfer control of the assets. However, if the estate is small some organisations may release the money to you at their discretion.

To establish whether the assets can be obtained without a grant, the executor or administrator would need to write to each institution. Informing them of the death and enclosing a photocopy of the death certificate (and will if there is one). The personal representative won’t be granted probate until some or all of any Inheritance Tax that is due on the estate has been paid.

**The above only applies to England and Wales. If the person who died lived in Scotland a ‘grant of confirmation’ must be applied for.**

Related Links

Swearing an Oath
Mind At Rest Probate Services
List of Probate Registry’s
What is a Grant of Probate?