When a loved one passes away, the distribution of their estate can be a complex and challenging task. Navigating the legal requirements and distribution of their assets can be overwhelming for many. The grant of probate document is designed to make this process a lot clearer and avoid any conflict that can arise.
In this article, MSC Notaries and Solicitors provide a clear and concise explanation of what a grant of probate is and its significance in the estate distribution process. We also outline the necessary steps and requirements involved in the application process.
As trusted and experienced probate solicitors, MSC Notaries and Solicitors are dedicated to helping individuals and families navigate the legal intricacies of estate planning and distribution after the death of a loved one.
What is a Grant of Probate?
A grant of probate is a document confirming the executor, otherwise referred to as the administrator, of a person’s will. The individual(s) granted probate is/are responsible for and has the authority to carry out the wishes stated in a deceased person’s will, which includes the distribution of their ‘estate’ and therefore assets including their money, property and possessions.
If a person does not have a will when deceased, a Grant of Letters of Administration is required instead whereby assets are distributed based on the government-set rules of intestacy, which outline those who benefit when there is no will to follow.
Understanding a Grant of Probate
Why is a Grant of Probate Required?
A grant of probate document outlines the executor of a will, and who has legal authority over the deceased individual’s will and acts as protection to anyone that the will states to distribute assets to, or who wishes to purchase assets. The deceased’s estate and assets cannot be dealt with, distributed or sold until the probate’s legal authority has been granted.
When is a Grant of Probate Required?
While probate is required in most cases, it is important to note that there are some exceptions. You will need to contact the banks and other financial institutions that the person used to determine whether a probate is required to distribute a person’s assets.
A probate will not be required if:
- The deceased only had savings, or their estate is worth less than a total of £10,000
- They owned shares or money with other people, as this automatically passes to the other surviving owner unless agreed otherwise
- They owned land or property with other people as joint tenants, as again this automatically passes to the other surviving owner unless agreed otherwise
Who Can Apply for a Grant of Probate?
Not anyone can apply for probate and the eligible applicants are also dependent on whether there is a will or not.
If there is a will left by the deceased, all executors named in the original will or a codicil of the will are eligible to apply. If there is no will, the closest living relative is eligible to apply for probate.
Importance of Grant of Probate in Estate Distribution
The process of administering an estate is a complex yet vital process, and the grant of probate is a key tool in ensuring the orderly and efficient distribution of the deceased’s assets. Some of the main reasons why a grant of probate is crucial in the distribution of an estate are:
- Establishing legal authority to provide a clear and formal framework for addressing any disagreements regarding the interpretation of the will, the validity of claims against the estate, or the rightful beneficiaries.
- Offering a level of security to financial institutions, allowing the executor to access and transfer funds held in bank accounts, investments, or other assets and ensure the smooth distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
- Addressing and paying off any debts, liabilities and taxes to ensure the accurate distribution of remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
- Facilitating the resolution of potential disputes and conflicts that may arise during the estate administration process as the probate can rely on the legal authority assigned to them.
How to Apply for a Grant of Probate
Choosing the Right Approach
Individuals can apply for probate themselves online or via post, or you can employ a solicitor and probate practitioner to assist you in the application process.
If you choose to handle the application process yourself, before you apply, you will need to carry out the following:
1. Register the person’s death within five days of the date if you are in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and within eight days if you are in Scotland.
2. Have an estimated value of the deceased’s estate to identify whether you will need to pay Inheritance tax. This can either be a straightforward process for those with fewer assets or more complicated and time-consuming. Examples of institutions you may need to contact to value a person’s estate and obtain final statements include:
- Banks for any accounts and savings
- Lenders for any mortgages, credit cards or loans
- Pension providers
- Local government for outstanding council tax bills
- HMRC for outstanding tax
- Department for Work and Pensions
- Estate agents or surveyors for property valuations
3. Report the deceased’s full estate value to HMRC either online or via post, and submit an IHT form to start paying Inheritance tax if applicable.
4. Wait a period of 20 working days once you have submitted the tax forms to HMRC before beginning the probate application process.
Gathering Essential Documents
There are various key documents that are required to be submitted as part of the probate application process, including:
- The original and most up-to-date will. This cannot be a photocopy and it will be kept once submitted by the probate registry.
- Identification documents for all executors and/or beneficiaries.
- IHT form to submit to HMRC.
Probate Application Process
Decide who will apply for probate
Once you have carried out the above steps and the deceased’s estate has been valued alongside any debts, you will need to identify who will apply for probate.
If there is a will
Up to four executors can be named in an application and before an application can be made, the executors must decide between them and reach an agreement on who will apply for probate. If you don’t know or cannot locate other executors named, you can contact the Probate Call Centre for assistance. If there are disagreements regarding who will apply for probate, this may require obtaining legal advice.
If you are named as an executor but do not wish to or are unable to apply for probate, you do not have to do so. Instead, you can:
- Give up your right temporarily but reserve the right to in the future and hold ‘power reserved’, or give up your right permanently
- Appoint another executor
- Appoint someone to apply for you if you are the only executor or all other executors have given up their rights to apply
- If an individual is unable to apply due to being deceased or mentally impaired, a substitution can be made providing certain conditions are met, such as a court-appointed deputy, their power of attorney, or a beneficiary of the will
If there is not a will
If there is no will left by the deceased, an application can be submitted by the most entitled person, which is the closest living relative such as their married partner, followed by their children over the age of 18. If the deceased has no close relatives, you can contact the Probate Call Centre for advice or use the government’s Inheritance Calculator to try and identify a suitable person.
Start the application process
Applying online is a preferable method to use if you are able to, as the process generally moves a lot quicker, and you can log in to the probate service to track your application’s progress at any time to stay informed on its status. The government also offer digital support and technical assistance for those that may struggle to carry the process out online to make the process a lot smoother.
Applying by Post
To apply by post, there are certain forms you will need to fill in at home and post.
The chosen executor must also sign a statement of truth as of November 2018 as part of the Non-Contentious Probate (Amendment) Rules, which states that all the information provided is accurate.
Pay the probate fees
The application fee for a grant of probate is a set fee of:
- £273 in England and Wales. The application is free if the estate is under £5,000.
- £261 in Northern Ireland. The application is free if the estate is under £10,000.
- £266 in Scotland for estates under £250,000 and £532 above £250,000. The application is free in Scotland if the estate is under £50,000.
Additional copies of the document are £1.50 and it is advised to obtain a minimum of five copies for future use.
Pay inheritance tax
If you had to submit an IHT form to HMRC, you will need to pay the inheritance tax in advance before probate can be granted. This can be done directly from the deceased’s bank account if there are sufficient funds, or HMRC can accept a tenth in advance and the remainder in instalments if the assets are in the form of property or shares.
Work with MSC Notaries and Solicitors to Obtain Documents for the Grant of Probate
MSC Notaries and Solicitors are solicitors authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and are trusted and experienced probate solicitors. We help our clients to prepare inheritance tax forms and apply for probate after the death of a loved one, to ensure the process is as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Our team of probate solicitors can assist you throughout every stage of the probate application process, from legal advice to preparing the necessary probate documents to complete and submit. We can take the worry off your hands and ensure that all parts of the process are completed and submitted correctly and on time.
For more information or advice on the process of applying for a grant of probate, contact our friendly team today.
How long does it take to obtain a Grant of Probate?
You will usually be assigned probate within a period of 16 weeks after submitting your application, however, this timeframe can vary depending on whether additional information is requested to be provided.
What happens after probate is granted?
Once you have been granted probate, you can use the grant of probate document to begin to carry out the actions requested in the will for the distribution of the deceased’s estate. It is also advised to put out notices in The Gazette’s official public record in case there are any unidentified creditors owed by the deceased, so this can be reflected in the estate before any assets are distributed.