What is Probate of a Will and why is it important?

This guide will help you understand what needs to be done when dealing with the estate of someone who has died.

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It is something that nearly all of us will experience, yet something that many of us know little about.

In what can be an already difficult time, it is often hard to understand the process of probate, and the situation can feel daunting. It can be made simpler, however, if we know a little about it beforehand.

For this reason, we have compiled a guide to Probate, to point you in the right direction.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process for dealing with the estate of someone who has died. An estate, in this case, relates to the money and property of the deceased. 

If the deceased left a will, they may have specified an executor or executors. These are people who are expected to “execute” the will. An executor has the responsibility to carry out the deceased’s wishes, as written down in their will. in this case, relates to the money and property of the deceased.

In many cases, family and/or friends will be the executor/s of the will. However, people may appoint professional executors (a solicitor or will writer).

If there is no executor named in the will, or there is no will, someone must become the administrator of the estate.

What to do if there is no Will

Research reveals nearly half of Britons over 55 do not have a will, so it is quite possible that the deceased died without one, leaving them intestate. The intestacy rules are the principles laid down by law which stipulate how the estate is to be administered if there is no will.

First, an application must be made to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This document gives the person named the authority to administer the deceased person’s Estate. This person is known as an administrator.

The rules of intestacy follow a hierarchy of who should benefit from the estate. This order is as follows:

  • Spouse or civil partner
  • Children/grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and aunts

The highest existing and surviving relative will take priority. Clearly, this may not be an ideal situation for the deceased, which is why would highly advise you to make a will.

How do you start the process of Probate?

To begin with, you will need to obtain a Grant of Representation. This is a document obtained from the court to prove the legal authority of the person entrusted to deal with a deceased person's estate.

The kind of grant that you need to obtain will also depend on your circumstances, as mentioned above. These are as follows:

  • If you are named executor in the Will – Grant of Probate
  • If you are the administrator with no Will – Letters of Administration
  • If you are the administrator of a Will – Letters of Administration (with Will present)

A Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration can be obtained by contacting your local Probate Registry. You may choose to instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf to do this.

How long does the process take?

Unfortunately, the question “how long is a piece of string?” springs to mind here. It is dependent on how complex the deceased’s estate is. For example, if there are multiple houses, bank accounts, assets which weren’t known to the executor etc.

On average, if the will is not contested, the whole process can take anywhere between 6-12 months, but it can be much quicker if the estate is simple.

A way of minimising delays is to ask a qualified Probate Solicitor to make the application on your behalf. This will help to ensure that the Probate application is correctly completed.

How we can help

At Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors, we have a team of dedicated probate solicitors who are ready to help you resolve your query or issue relating to this area of the law as quickly and effectively as possible.

If you need assistance with obtaining a grant of probate or letter of administration, or simply want advice on dealing with the Probate Registry, our wills, trusts and probate solicitors have a wealth of experience. They can help you through what can be a difficult time, dealing with estate and trust property and complex estates.

If you would like to contact one of our expert probate solicitors you can do so by calling 0800 781 3894 or by completing the “Get in touch” form on this site.