Probate is not a topic of conversation that many wish to have, but most people will have to deal with probate at some point in their life, so it best to know what the process is and what is involved.
What is needed to distribute a person’s estate?
When a person passes away and leave behind what is known as their estate; this will include their possessions, money and any property. For an estate to be distributed, the person or people dealing with it will need a ‘grant of representation’, which will depend on the circumstances of how the deceased left their estate.
If a person has left a will, executors or personal representatives will have been appointed to distribute the estate. To do this they will need to get a ‘grant of probate.
If a person has died with no will, known as intestacy, the next of kin will need to apply for a ‘grant of letter of administration’.
What happens when a grant of representation is obtained?
A grant will allow those winding up the estate to legally take control of the estate and distribute it either according to the wishes in the will or to the rules of intestacy, which is currently what is known as probate.
What happens during probate?
The process of probate will involve gathering up any assets, paying any bills and then distributing what remains. The grant will allow the person dealing probate to begin gathering up the estate by sending copies to companies that may hold assets, such as bank accounts, life insurance, pension providers and mortgage companies.
Any joint accounts will automatically transfer to the other party, which is the same for any property hold as joint tenants, under survivorship. However, if property is owned as tenants in common, the deceased’s share will pass in accordance with the will or by the rules of intestacy.
Does probate need to be done for every estate?
No, not every estate needs to have the representative obtain a grant of representation. If the estate is going to pass through survivorship or to a spouse, probate is not usually required.
Probate is also not required when the estate is ‘small’, which generally means the estate is worth less than £5,000. However, there are other circumstances where probate may not be required, such as when the estate is straightforward and falls well below the Inheritance Tax threshold.
If you are unsure as to whether a grant of representation is needed for probate, it is best to get professional advice.