Sunday 2 October 2011

What is 'Probate'?

Article by
Sharon Brown
The loss of a loved one is always a difficult time, and being confronted with legal terms such as ‘Grant of Representation’ is not helpful. It can be daunting and confusing trying to plough through legal processes and work out what actually needs to be done. Many people mistakenly believe that a Grant is always needed but this is not the case; it is dependent on the value of the estate and whether any assets were owned jointly with someone else or held only in the deceased person’s sole name.

When someone dies there are a number of issues that must be dealt with, including dealing with any property that was owned or rented, closing down bank and building society accounts, encashing or transferring shares and investments and settling any debts the person may have had. Financial organizations may start referring to ‘probate’ but this can be misleading for people who do not know what it means. Put simply, probate is the term commonly used for obtaining the legal right to deal with a deceased person’s affairs – administering the estate.

If the deceased person left a Will, the ‘executors’ (the people named to carry out the instructions written in the Will) are likely to need a Grant of Probate in order to administer the estate. The Grant of Probate means that the Court has confirmed the validity of the Will and gives the executors legal authority to proceed to carry out the stated instructions.

If the person died without making a Will, it means they died ‘intestate’ and therefore the law decides how their estate will be distributed. (For more guidance on the intestacy rules please see our Intestacy Article ). The ‘administrators’ (the people legally entitled to deal with the estate – usually the next of kin) will need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration before they can start to deal with the deceased person’s affairs. This type of estate can become particularly confusing as the administrators have a legal duty to ensure that distribution is made in accordance with the intestacy rules and to the correct people.

The common belief when there is no Will is that the whole estate will pass to the person’s spouse but this is not always correct and only applies in estates that are relatively small in value. Furthermore, there is no recognition of unmarried partners in the intestacy rules and they may need to successfully claim financial dependence on the deceased person in order to be provided for from the estate.

It is possible to apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration without any legal advice or guidance, but many people prefer to seek assistance from a specialist solicitor.

Here at Garden House we pride ourselves in offering different levels of service to meet your personal circumstances and requirements, including:
• A one-off meeting to explain how you can deal with matters yourself, the terms of the Will (if applicable) and what your next steps should be;
• Easing the burden by obtaining the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration on your behalf for a fixed fee;
• Taking the pressure away completely by dealing with the entire estate on your behalf, keeping you updated and informed throughout.

If you require any advice or assistance in dealing with the affairs of someone who has passed away please contact a member of the Private Client team at Garden House Solicitors on 01992 422128  or email Sharon Brown . Tel: 01992 422 128

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. 

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