Many people can be unsure about what happens after someone dies when it comes to dealing with their estate. It can be a very emotional time, and dealing with solicitors and legal documents can seem daunting and confusing.
In this blog, we discuss when it will be necessary to apply for Probate if there is a Will in place after someone has died, or Letters of Administration, if there is no Will.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process of administering a person’s estate after their death. A ‘Grant of Probate’ is a legal document issued by the Probate Registry which confirms that the Executors have authority to deal with the estate, but it is not needed in every case. The Executors can either decide to apply for the Grant of Probate personally, or they can instruct solicitors to deal with the application on their behalf.
When is a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration required?
Probate or Letters of Administration will be required in all cases where the deceased owned a property in his or her sole name. If property is owned jointly, as ‘joint tenants’ with the co-owner, the property will pass automatically by survivorship. The same principle will apply to joint bank accounts and joint investments.
If the deceased owned bank accounts or investments in his or her sole name, it will depend upon the requirements of the particular financial institutions and the amounts of money involved as to whether or not Probate or Letters of Administration is required to release the funds.
If there is a Will, the Executors apply for the Grant of Probate. If there is no Will, the Personal Representatives of the estate apply for Letters of Administration.
How long does it take?
Typically, straightforward estates can be administered within 6 to 18 months. This depends on the circumstances of each particular estate, e.g. if there is any Inheritance Tax to pay, as each estate is different. Every organisation we need to liaise with in order to obtain all of the necessary information has different response times which can sometimes cause unforeseen delays.
Normally, once all of the required information is available, it can take between 2 and 8 weeks to obtain the Grant of Probate. However, currently, Probate Registries nationwide are experiencing severe delays with the issuing of Grants, which has been widely reported in the press of late, due to centralisation of the system, and the timescales will vary. The assets can then be collected in, which can take between 4 and 12 weeks depending upon the efficiency of the financial institutions involved. If there is a property to sell, the administration of the estate may take longer depending upon how quickly a purchaser is found and if there is a delay in the chain. Once the assets have been collected, the final accounts can be prepared for approval by the Executors, and the assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the Will. This process usually takes between 4 – 8 weeks provided that there are no unforeseen complications.
How much does it cost?
The cost can vary depending on the value of the estate and the amount of work involved in the administration of the estate. We can assist with the full estate administration process, or purely assist with submitting the application for the Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration. Our fees are usually a fixed amount, or based on a percentage of the value of the gross estate as at the date of death, depending upon the complexity of the matter and the amount of work involved.
Rosemary Johns says: “Probate can sometimes be a long and complicated process. Consulting a specialist solicitor will provide you with guidance through every step of the process and answers to any questions you are bound to have during this difficult and upsetting time.”
For more information on our wills, probate and lasting power of attorney services, please visit our pages here.
Or to make a 20-minute free initial consultation, call and speak to a member of our specialist Private Client team who will be happy to assist you further on 0800 614 722.