Probate refers to the process by which someone’s estate is divided up and distributed after they die. Either a grant of probate or a grant of letters of administration is required after around half of all deaths in the UK before funds can be accessed and property sold from a deceased person’s estate. This article will explain what these documents are and how the probate process works.
A grant of probate is the official document that grants someone the authority to deal with another person’s estate after their death. When someone writes a Will, they are encouraged to name one or several executors who will be responsible for dividing up their assets in accordance with their wishes. The executor is responsible for applying for a grant of probate and handling the estate administration after this person passes away.
A grant of letters of administration is similar to a grant of probate in that it is also a legal document that grants someone the authority to administer someone else’s estate after they die. The key difference is that a grant of letters of administration is required when the deceased did not write a Will.
With no Will, there are no named executors and no named beneficiaries. Therefore, someone needs to step up and take responsibility for dividing up the estate in accordance with the law. The laws of intestacy determine who is entitled to the majority of someone’s estate when they die intestate (without leaving a Will). This person is also responsible for applying for a grant of letters of administration and will be known as the administrator of the estate. Up to four people can apply for a grant together, but you can also apply on your own if you wish.
There are several steps to the probate process, and the time it takes to complete each one will vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate. The entire process can take anywhere from three months to a year from start to finish, and for particularly large estates, it could take even longer.
The initial application takes most people several weeks to complete, and once submitted you will likely be waiting for three to six weeks for it to be approved. Currently, there are significant delays at the probate registry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so you should ensure that you do not make any mistakes on your forms to avoid prolonging their approval even further.
Dealing with the administration of an estate after receiving your grant of probate in the post takes most people three to six months. The responsibilities that come with handling an estate might include selling property, accessing pension funds, paying outstanding debts, closing bank accounts, claiming on life insurance policies, and distributing assets and funds to the beneficiaries. Again, for exceptionally large and complex estates, this process is likely to take even longer.
Step 1: Before you apply
After you have registered the death and obtained a copy of the Will, you need to ensure that the estate is protected. This involves accessing the property and ensuring that it is totally secure and all valuable assets such as jewellery and watches are in your possession to avoid the risk of them being stolen. After securing the property, you should get in contact with any financial organisations and utility providers to notify them of the death and ask them to freeze any accounts belonging to your loved one to prevent further payments from being taken.
Probate is only required after around half of all deaths in the UK, so the next step is to check whether you need to apply. Most banks and financial organisations have a limit on how much money they are willing to release without needing to see a grant of probate. This can range from £5,000 to £50,000. If there is no solely owned property in the estate and its net value is below £10,000, it is unlikely that you will need to apply for probate. Make a list of all the assets contained within your loved one’s estate and value each one to work out whether you need to apply.
Step 2: Applying for probate
If you require probate, the next step is filling out application forms. If your loved one left a Will, the form you need to submit to the probate registry is called PA1P. If they did not leave a Will, the form is known as PA1A. In addition to this initial probate form, you will need to submit a tax form regardless of whether inheritance tax is due.
If you choose to apply for probate without hiring a professional to help you, it will cost you £215 plus £1.50 for each copy of the grant of probate. It is recommended that you buy several copies to speed up the estate administration process, as you will need to send official copies of this grant to several different organisations.
When your application has been approved by the registry, all copies of the grant of probate that you ordered will be sent to you by post.
Step 3: Handling the estate
When you have your copies of the grant of probate, you have legal authority to begin administering the estate. This means that you can distribute the assets to the beneficiaries listed in the will and it might also include doing things like selling property, closing bank accounts, claiming on life insurance policies, and paying off debts and taxes.
Many people find the probate process to be complicated, time-consuming, and tiring, especially as it follows the death of a loved one and they are likely to be grieving. If you think this might be relevant to you, there are several ways in which you can get professional help with your application by hiring a solicitor or a professional probate service such as Kwil. Most professionals offer two different services: a grant-only service and full estate administration.
If you are unsure about filling out complicated forms without making a mistake, you might opt for a grant-only service. This option is cheaper and might work for you if you have time to handle the estate but don’t trust your ability to understand complex legal and financial jargon.
If you opt for Kwil’s grant-only service, our legal team will fill out the forms for you, ensuring that no errors are made, and your application is approved in as little time as possible so you can get on with administering the estate. This service costs £595 for smaller estates, or £999 for more complex ones, plus the £155 fee for registering for probate (which is reduced from £215 when you hire professional help) and £1.50 for each copy of the grant.
If you are a busy professional with little free time or have children to look after, or if you simply don’t want the stress of having to value and sell property and distribute funds, you might opt for a full estate administration service. If you hire Kwil for full estate administration, we will value your loved one’s estate, obtain a grant of probate, and distribute the assets and funds within the estate according to the Will, or according to the laws of intestacy if there is no Will. This means that you don’t need to worry about making any mistakes or having all of your free time consumed by probate. The price of this service will vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate, but we always charge a fixed fee with no hidden costs. If this service interests you, call us for a free quote today and we can talk you through it in more detail.