A Short Guide To Probate
What happens to your Will after you die? Guide to Probate
So your Will is in place – but the legal process is still far from over. The deceased estate (the name given to the deceased person’s assets and belongings) must now go through the process of probate.
Whilst your wishes are guaranteed by the Will, there is still a great deal of legal work left to do after death. Ensuring that a Will is processed and administered correctly is a complex process requiring a high level of legal expertise.
An estate (the name for all of a person’s assets and belongings) can consist of a lot more than just money – there may also be property, multiple bank and savings accounts, shares, bonds and personal possessions. So ensuring that the beneficiaries (the people named in the will) receive what they are entitled to is a complex task. This process is called ‘probate’, and a lengthy or protracted probate can mean a higher level of expenses – which means less money for your beneficiaries.
Who can apply for Probate?
Normally the Testator (the deceased person) will name a trusted person who they want to distribute their estate in their Will. This person is called the executor (pronounced ‘eggs-ec-utor’) and may be a relative, or may be a solicitor. They must be prepared to do a fair amount of practical and somewhat complex work when administering the estate.
A person who has been named as an executor could also choose to employ a solicitor to deal with all or most of the Probate process on their behalf.
What happens during Probate?
- Finding the Will, if the deceased has made one.
- Applying for ‘grant of probate’ – this gives the executor the right to access things like the person’s bank account or savings.
- Collect the assets (e.g money, bonds or savings accounts, or the proceeds of the sale of a property).
- Ensure that all relevant parties are aware of the testator’s death. They will normally need to see the death certificate.
- Pay off any outstanding debts (for instance, unpaid gas or electricity bills).
- Distribution of the estate – this means giving any money, possessions or property (or the proceeds of the sale) to the beneficiaries.
How can I ensure Probate happens as quickly and as smoothly as possible?
The more complex the probate the higher the risk of making a mistake when administering the estate. If the beneficiaries believe that a Will has been poorly executed, or that they have not been properly considered when the Will was administered, they are entitled to dispute this.
If you are named executor, and feel you can carry out the workload required, you can choose to apply for probate yourself. Many people opt to use a solicitor who specialises in probate services to do much of the work for them, as this can and save time and money and lessens the risk of making mistakes.