What does probate mean?
When a person dies, someone has to take on the responsibility of administering the estate – in other words, sort things out.
If there is a valid will
Where the deceased leaves a will, executors will be named in the will and they will have the responsibility of administering the estate. In most cases, executors will need to apply for a grant of probate which is the official document issued from a Probate Registry.
If there is no will
If there is no will, the deceased has died intestate. This usually means that relatives, in order of priority prescribed by law, will need to be appointed as administrators. In most cases, administrators will need to apply for a grant of letters of administration which is the official document issued from a Probate Registry.
Other legal terms you may find confusing
Personal representatives- this is just a general term sometimes used to describe executors or administrators.
Grant of representation- this is just a general term sometimes used to describe either a grant of probate or a grant of letters of administration.
Responsibilities of personal representatives
Personal representatives must make sure that the estate is administered correctly. If there is a will, the personal representatives must make sure that the wishes of the deceased, as set out in the will, are carried out. If there is no will, the estate must be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy. You may need a solicitor to explain these.
Applying for a grant of representation
You can ask a solicitor to help or you can apply to the Probate Registry yourself. In more complicated matters it is generally always advisable to talk to a solicitor but quite a lot of people do find that they are capable of dealing with more straightforward estates without legal advice. It may be helpful to visit this link for further information please click here.
Finding a solicitor
You may have your own trusted family solicitor or be happy to talk to a solicitor who has been recommended to you by someone who has received good service from that solicitor. Here at Ashton Mill, we have many years’ experience of dealing with probate lawyers and would be happy to guide you in finding a suitable solicitor. Alternatively, you can find a solicitor here.
Inheritance Tax (Death Duty)
Personal representatives are responsible for paying any inheritance tax due as a result of a person's death. Whether any inheritance tax needs to be paid will depend, usually, on the size of the estate and the amount of any available exemptions. You can find out more by looking at the HM Revenue & Customs website here.
Charges will vary between different solicitors and much will depend on the level of complications involved in administering the estate. Your solicitor must tell you what the costs are likely to be before carrying out any work. In almost every case, the legal costs are paid from the estate assets.
We have provided this simple guide in order to be helpful and while we have made every effort to provide accurate information, please remember that the law frequently changes and that your particular circumstances may contain elements to which we have not referred. If you are concerned or confused you must seek legal advice and we will not be liable to you if you rely on this information.