What is Probate?

11th April 2016

Probate is the process of administering someone’s estate when they die.

The person who is responsible for doing this is either the executor (or executors) that are named in the will of that person, or if the person died without making a will, then this would typically be the next of kin.

When someone dies, a court must grant permission for an estate to be collected and then divided amongst beneficiaries – called the Grant of Probate.

Once permission has been granted, the person administering the estate will have to ensure that all debts are repaid, any inheritance tax that is due is paid to HMRC, collecting any assets and other income from banks, etc., dividing money and items amongst beneficiaries and finally preparing the accounts for the estate.

It is important to note that, if the estate has assets of less than £5,000, then probate doesn’t need to be granted.

So how does the process of getting probate granted work?

First, some research needs to be undertaken to ascertain the size of the estate. This will mean collating information about all the assets and liabilities of that person from banks and other financial institutions, including their value, how much their property is worth, what stocks and shares would be valued at etc.

Then a tax return must be filed, so that HMRC can be paid any tax due. Once this is complete, then the application to be awarded probate can be filed with the courts.

Once permission has been received, then the executor can then carry out the administration tasks and divide the estate once debts have been paid. Final estate accounts will be provided to the beneficiaries, and the final tax return confirmed.

As you can imagine, probate can be time consuming and extremely complicated, either because no will has been left, or if there are numerous assets or liabilities that need to be paid or divided up amongst the beneficiaries. The person or people who are granted probate are personally liable in the case of any mistakes being made, such as the wrong amounts distributed to beneficiaries, for example.

This is why it’s extremely important to ensure that a solicitor is involved with the process, they will have specialist tax and legal knowledge that can help executors through the maze, and ensure that the process is dealt with quickly and efficiently.