Probate: Frequently Asked Questions
If your loved one has recently died, then you may have come across the term ‘Probate’. Most people don’t encounter the Probate process until a friend or family member passes away, and so may be entirely unfamiliar with the concept.
To help you understand more about Probate, we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions. We explain what Probate is, and whether it’s something you need to worry about. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Sunderland solicitors. We deal with Probate for clients across England and Wales. We can help you too.
What is Probate?
Probate is a legal process that is sometimes needed after someone dies. It involves applying for a Grant of Probate (if there is a Will) or a Grant of Administration (if there isn’t a Will). The application is sent to the Probate Registry. The purpose of Probate is to prove that the Will is valid, if there is one. It also ensures that the correct people are winding up the deceased’s persons affairs.
Is Probate needed after every death?
No, Probate is not needed every time a person dies. Usually, Probate is only required if the deceased:
- Owned assets in their sole name; and
- These assets are over a certain value
Owning assets ‘over a certain value’ is not very specific. However, it is hard to put a precise figure on it, as every bank and financial institution has their own rules. Sometimes, Probate is needed if the deceased owned as little as £15,000 in their sole name. Other times, the threshold is higher. You will need to check the policy of each bank and financial institution that is holding the deceased’s assets.
One thing is almost certain: if the deceased owned a property in their sole name or as tenants in common, then Probate will be needed.
When is Probate not needed?
Probate is not required if:
- The deceased held all their assets jointly, and these assets are passing to the surviving co-owner; or
- The deceased owned assets of little value
As discussed above, Probate is not needed if the deceased owned limited assets.
Furthermore, Probate is not needed if the deceased owned their assets jointly, and the other joint owner is still alive. This is thanks to a law called the Rule of Survivorship. This dictates that after death, any jointly owned assets pass automatically to the surviving owner, without the need for Probate. For example, take a married couple who own their house and savings together. When the first person dies, all the assets will pass straight to the surviving spouse. The family will not have to go through Probate until the second spouse dies.
Is Probate needed if there’s a Will?
The need for Probate depends entirely on the value of the deceased’s assets, and how they were held. It does not matter whether or not there’s a valid Will in place. Probate may be needed even if your loved one left a Will. Similarly, Probate may be needed if your loved one did not leave a Will.
How do I find out if Probate is needed?
If you’re in any doubt about whether or not Probate is needed, please contact our Sunderland solicitors. We act for clients across England and Wales. You’ll need to know what assets the deceased owned, and whether or not these were owned in their sole name. Once we have this information, we can advise whether Probate is required following your loved one’s death.
If Probate is needed, then the deceased’s assets will be frozen until a Grant has been obtained.
How do I get a Grant of Probate?
To get a Grant of Probate, you need to make an application to the Probate Registry. You can do this online or you can apply by post. Remember that if there isn’t a Will, you’ll need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration instead.
Before you actually submit the application, you’ll need to work out the value of the deceased’s estate (‘estate’ is the collective term for everything he/she owned). You’ll need to report this to HMRC and, depending on the estate’s value, you may have to pay Inheritance Tax.
You must also provide the Probate Registry with the original Will (if there is one) and the original death certificate. There will be a Probate fee to pay.
Who can apply for Probate?
There are rules on who can apply for Probate. This is where the presence or absence of a Will does have an impact on the Probate process.
If the deceased left a valid Will, then the executors named in the Will must apply for Probate. Or they can give up their right to be an executor by filling in a PA15 form.
If the deceased did not leave a valid Will (or the executors are unable/unwilling to act) then the deceased’s next of kin must apply for Probate. For the purposes of Probate, this person is known as an administrator. The administrator will usually be the individual who stands to receive the greatest share of the estate under the Rules of Intestacy.
What happens after I’ve applied for Probate?
Once the Probate Registry has received your application, there will be a delay while the application is processed. If there are any mistakes, the Probate Registry will contact you for clarification.
So long as everything is in order, the Probate Registry will issue a Grant of Probate (or a Grant of Letters of Administration, if there isn’t a Will). After this, the executors or administrator are legally entitled to access the deceased’s assets. They can then do things like sell the deceased’s property and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.
Can I get help with Probate?
Yes, you can ask a professional to help you with the Probate process. In fact, most people ask a Probate solicitor to act on their behalf, regardless of whether they’re an executor or an administrator.
Probate can be very complicated, especially if the deceased owned lots of assets and/or foreign assets. Preparing the Probate application alone can involve a significant amount of work. You’ll need to gather all the deceased’s assets and have them valued. You’ll then need to calculate whether Inheritance Tax is due and organise payment. If you are the executor or administrator, then you will be held personally accountable for any errors that are made.
A Probate solicitor can take all this work off your hands. This removes a huge burden from your shoulders, and ensures that the Probate process is completed accurately and efficiently.
Probate Sunderland solicitors
If you would like help with the Probate process and you live in England or Wales, please contact us on 0191 567 7244 and we’ll be happy to help you.
If you would rather contact us online, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our team will be in contact with you shortly.