What is probate?
Probate is a legal document required when administering a deceased person’s estate. When someone writes their will, they should name at least one person as the executor, who they trust will carry out the terms of their will. The executor usually needs to apply for a ‘grant of probate’ to be able to legally administer the estate. Solicitors can be hired to explain the process and apply for probate, saving time and energy.
If the deceased did not make a will, then normally their closest relative will need to apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. If they are granted the letters they will be certified as the administrator and be responsible for dealing with the estate.
Both a ‘grant of probate’ and a ‘grant of letters of administration’ are classed as a ‘grant of representation’. If the deceased was a joint-owner of everything, or leaves less than 5,000 GBP, then a ‘grant of representation’ is not always needed; it will be subject to the financial organisations involved.
Personal representatives are those named as an executor or administrator, and in the event that there is more than one, between them they must decide on each individual matter when administering the estate. Having multiple representatives can be a hindrance, but if a solicitor is involved they will be able to keep everything on track and resolve problems.
If there is a will, the terms of the will must be followed precisely so that their assets are divided as they wanted, but if there is no will then the personal representatives must follow the Rules of Intestacy. A solicitor will be able to explain each step of this law to you so that you understand exactly what will happen to the estate.
Distributing the estate
Before the estate can be distributed to its recipients, all outstanding bills and taxes owed by the deceased must be paid off. The estate can be used to pay for any costs involved in this process.
The personal representative holds the legal responsibility for paying off all debts. It is therefore very important to be aware of any debts that the deceased has, so a solicitor should help analyse their accounts and files to be sure. They will then help to organise the accounts of the estate, have them approved and then signed by all relevant parties.
How long does it take?
Dealing with the estate of a deceased person is very time-consuming and demanding, sometimes taking at least a year. However, a solicitor is able to speed up the process and help deal with many problematic aspects. There are many different issues which can cause the process to last for a long time, such as:
- Debts and tax owed
- How organised their accounts and finances are when they die
- The properties/business ventures of the deceased
- The terms of their will or Rules of Intestacy
- The roles of banks and other organisations