Managing the estate of someone who has died, otherwise known as probate, can be a daunting and upsetting time.
Is there a Will?
The first thing to do is find out if the deceased left a valid Will, as there are different legal requirements for administering the estate if no valid Will was written. If you can’t find a Will, a Will Search can be carried out by a professional legal firm.
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. The 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(s) has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets. They can use it 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.
If the person who has died didn’t leave a Will
If there is no Will, 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.
What is Probate?
Put simply, probate is the legal process of administering the estate of someone who has died. There are three main stages in the process:
- Collecting the information about all of the assets and debts of the deceased;
- Preparing the statutory Tax Returns and the application to the Probate Registry for the legal authority to administer the estate (the Grant of Probate);
- Gathering in the assets, paying debts and expenses, and distributing the estate to Beneficiaries.
Probate is generally required to enable a person’s assets (property, money and possessions) to be distributed following their death. However, each case is unique and sometimes probate may not be needed.
What to do next – do I need a probate solicitor?
You do not have to go to a probate solicitor; many people choose to deal with the estate themselves. However, Executors or Administrators are legally responsible for administering the estate and will be personally liable for any mistakes or oversights. They are accountable to HM Revenue and Customs and to the beneficiaries. This is one of the reasons why many people choose to employ a professional, to take on all or some of the responsibilities on their behalf.
So, you do not need a professional legal firm or solicitor to administer the estate. If you do choose to do it yourself, it is important to make an honest appraisal of your time limits and ability to take on a task that can be complex and very time consuming.
If you do consult a professional legal firm, expect a clear and straightforward fixed price based on the amount of work involved, rather than a price based on a percentage of the estate value.