What is Probate?
Welcome to our page explaining “What is Probate?” – We are a firm who specialise in dealing with obtaining Grants of Probate and estate administration work.
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Need a Grant of Probate? We Can Help.
When faced with administering a loved one’s estate and having to obtain a Grant of Probate then one of the first questions you might ask yourself is “What is Probate?”. It’s usually in very sad circumstances following a loved one’s death. Knowing what probate is and trying to sort out the estate administration can be time-consuming and challenging. However, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. We can help. Seeking help and assistance and delegating some aspects of your loved one’s estate to a firm of specialist solicitors like ourselves is perfectly normal. In fact, many people who ask the question “What is Probate?” use solicitors to sort out the administration of their loved one’s estate. By delegating the probate process and the administration of the estate, hopefully you can find some time and space to concentrate on more important things such as starting the grieving process and coming to terms with your loss.
Free Probate & Estates Information Guide
We offer a free, no obligation guide called “How to Administer a Loved One’s Estate“. It is packed with useful information and hints and tips on what to do and explain what probate is. So if you are not sure what to do at the moment, and simply want some further information, then download our free information guide.
What Is A Grant of Probate?
If you have recently lost a close relative, and have been named Executor of their estate, it is important to have a basic knowledge of probate law in order to understand and implement your responsibilities lawfully and effectively and to understand what probate is. At Seatons, we are here to help you through this difficult time, give helpful, friendly advice in this complicated area and hopefully answer the “What is Probate?” question.
What is a Grant of Letters of Administration?
A Grant of Letters of Administration is a court order giving legal authority to a person to act in connection with a deceased person’s estate when the deceased person has died without making a Will. The person dealing with the deceased person’s estate is called the Administrator. The law states very clearly who is legally entitled to apply to be an Administrator. If you need help in connection with obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration, please contact us today.
The Definition of Grant of Probate
“What is Probate?” is a good question. A Grant of Probate is a court order that gives legal authority for Personal Representatives (known as Executors) to deal with and administer the deceased’s estate. This includes collecting in assets, paying off debts and liabilities and distributing the estate. Without this legal court order, banks, building societies, insurance companies and other similar organisations will not hand over the deceased’s assets.
The phrase “Grant of Probate” is a general term that is often used to describe obtaining a “Grant of Representation”, of which there are three types:
- Grant of Probate – Probate is a Grant of Representation provided when a Will has been created and an Executor has been appointed. It is evidence of the Executor’s legal authority to manage the deceased’s estate with authority stemming from the Will itself.
- Grant of Letters of Administration – Letters of Administration are granted where the deceased died without a Will, and the Grant of Letters of Administration acts as authority for the administrator to act.
- Grant of Letters of Administration with Will Annexed – This rather unusual Grant of Representation is appropriate where the deceased made a Will but either failed to appoint an Executor, or all the Executors named in the Will have died or are unable to act. These are quite unusual applications.
Legally, if the value of a deceased person’s estate exceeds £5,000, then it may be necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration from the court. The Grant of Probate or the Grant of Letters of Administration is the legal authority given by the court to enable the deceased’s estate to be collected in, to pay off any debts and liabilities and then eventually to distribute the estate accordingly.
When do you Need Probate?
If the value of the net estate is over £5,000, (excluding jointly owned assets or policies written into trust), then a Grant of Probate will usually be needed. However, if the value of the estate is less than £5,000, (excluding jointly owned assets or policies written into trust), then a Grant of Probate may not be necessary.
How to Apply for Probate
The way to obtain and get a Grant of Probate is to make an application to the Probate Court. This involves completing a probate application form and also an Inland Revenue tax form. If there is a Will, then the original Will will need to be produced as well as the death certificate. The court will charge a probate fee. If you want, we can obtain a Grant of Probate for you and we can deal with the completion of all the probate forms and tax forms and submit the application to the court to get the Grant of Probate for you.
How Long Does Probate Take?
The length of time it takes to obtain probate depends on the value and complexity of the estate. If there is no Inheritance Tax to pay and the estate is fairly simple and straightforward then it is usually possible to obtain a Grant of Probate from the court within about four weeks. However, if the estate is complicated and there is Inheritance Tax to pay then it can take a lot longer to get a Grant of Probate, probably about four months. It really depends on many factors. If you require help and assistance on obtaining a Grant of Probate (and we definitely recommend you do that if there is Inheritance Tax to pay) then please contact us.
Cost of Probate
The cost of obtaining a Grant of Probate is dependent on whether you try and do it yourself or whether you instruct solicitors to deal with it for you. Firstly, there is a Probate Court fee which varies depending on the value of the estate but is usually between £150-£250. If you instruct solicitors to help you obtain a Grant of Probate then their costs are dependent on how much work you want them to do. If you want the solicitors to simply obtain the Grant of Probate and not deal with any estate administration work then we at Seatons normally charge £500 plus VAT plus the court fee to obtain the Grant for you. This would mean that we would take on responsibility for completing the form and submitting the application to the court which many find quite helpful as it allows them to concentrate their minds on other more important matters such as sorting out their loved one’s funeral and coming to terms with their loved one’s death.
What is the Probate Process?
The probate process is a phrase that a lot of people use but it is simply meant to describe the procedure involved in obtaining a Grant of Probate. Usually that means collating details of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, identifying whether a Grant of Probate is needed and if so, then completing the necessary probate forms and tax forms and then submitting the application to the court and hopefully the court will then issue the Grant of Probate.
This can be compared with the phrase “estate administration process”. What the estate administration process involves is that it includes the probate process in obtaining the Grant of Probate but it all extends out to dealing with all other aspects of the deceased’s estate such as collecting in the assets and paying off the debts and liabilities and eventually distributing the estate in accordance with the deceased’s Will or under the Intestacy Rules.
Grant of Probate Form
In order to obtain a Grant of Probate it is necessary to complete an application form which is then submitted to the court. In addition, it is necessary to complete an Inheritance Tax form as well, either an IHT205 or an IHT400.
If you are considering using a firm of solicitors to obtain a Grant of Probate then it is always worth obtaining a quote or an estimate of fees. We always try to be transparent and say in advance what our fees are. For obtaining a simple Grant of Probate where there is no Inheritance Tax to pay and the application is straightforward, then we usually charge £500 plus VAT plus the court fee, currently £162.50, which makes a total of £762.50. Obviously for more complicated estates, particularly where there is Inheritance Tax to pay, then we charge more and sometimes our fees could be around £1,500 plus VAT for obtaining a Grant of Probate where the matter is more complicated and there is Inheritance Tax to pay. We can charge less, we can charge more, it depends on the circumstances of each individual case.
Some people ask us what is the meaning of probate. The best we can say in reply is that a Grant of Probate is a court order that gives legal authority to a deceased’s Personal Representatives (Executors if there is a Will, or Administrators if there is no Will) to deal with the administration of the deceased’s estate. The meaning of the Grant of Probate is therefore to allow the deceased’s Personal Representatives to identify the extent of the assets, collect in those assets, pay off any debts and then distribute the deceased’s estate in accordance with their Will or in accordance with the Intestacy Rules. Therefore probate allows somebody to deal with the administration of their loved one’s estate and a Grant of Probate is simply the court order that gives that person the legal authority to do that.
Probate Registry – Probate Office – Probate Court
When people refer to the Probate Registry or the Probate Office or the Probate Court, they are really referring to the same organisation. This is a government organisation that deals with the issue of Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration. These are collectively called Grants of Representation. In order to obtain a Grant of Representation (a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration) then an application has to be made to a Probate Registry in order to process and deal with that and then issue the Grant. Sometimes people refer to the Probate Court, the Probate Office or the Probate Registry as the Probate Service and that is fine as well.
What is estate administration? Estate administration is the process which involves dealing with everything connected with administration of a deceased’s persons estate and that includes registering the death, organising the funeral, identifying the extent of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, communicating with banks/building societies and other organisations, making an application to the court to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. When the Grant has been issued then collecting in the deceased’s assets, paying off the deceased’s debts and then distributing the deceased’s estate in accordance with the Will, if there is one, or under the Intestacy Rules if there is no Will.
A probate solicitor is a solicitor who specialises in dealing with the administration of a deceased person’s estate. It is often best to use a solicitor who actually is a solicitor and also who is a member of the Society for Trusts and Estates Practitioners (STEP). This is an organisation that is only open to solicitors and other persons who have high levels of experience and expertise in dealing with trusts and estate administration work.
Jointly-held assets such as joint bank or building society accounts or even jointly-held property, will often automatically pass to the surviving joint owner on death. These assets will therefore normally be excluded from the deceased’s estate and a Grant of Probate from the Probate Court will not be necessary.
Organisation’s Policies and Procedures
Organisations such as banks and building societies, National Savings and insurance companies often have their own policies and procedures when dealing with small estates and obtaining Grant of Probate.
The £5,000 limit was introduced many years ago and is felt by many to be too low a figure to require a Grant of Probate. Therefore, nowadays, sums of money up to and well in excess of £5,000 (sometimes as much as £50,000) can often be paid and distributed from various banks, building societies and other financial institutions without the need for a Grant of Probate to be produced. However, each financial organisation has its own rules, procedures and limits and can insist on a Grant of Probate being obtained from the Probate Court. For example, some financial institutions will pay out if the account value is less than £30,000 (such as the Nationwide). Other organisations have different limits beyond which a Grant of Probate is needed.
Cash, Jewellery, Personal Belongings & Assets Written in Trust
Cash, jewellery and personal effects of modest value can also be distributed without the need for a Grant of Probate so long as all the beneficiaries agree.
It is sometimes the case that assets are nominated or written in trust to a named beneficiary. In these instances, the asset might be excluded from the estate and payable direct to the named beneficiary. The beneficiary can usually claim the money directly from the organisation without the need to produce a Grant of Probate.
Here for you.
We deal with Probate and Estate Administration for clients in Kettering, Corby, across Northamptonshire as well as all over the country in England and Wales. Distance is not a problem!
Call our Kettering office on 01536 311690 or our Corby office on 01536 276300 today or contact us online.