Dealing with the death of a loved one is a difficult and emotional time, especially when faced with the task of dealing with their estate. Probate is the legal process of dealing with the estate of someone who has passed away, which may include managing their money, property, assets, liabilities and debts.
Grant of Probate
This is a legal document that empowers someone to deal with the deceased’s estate once they have died, which affords that person the legal power to step into the shoes of the deceased, often giving them the ability to sell property, access bank accounts, settle any outstanding debts and liabilities, and pay beneficiaries. This document is obtained by the named executor in the deceased’s will, if they had one, and can be more than one person. The executor of someone’s estate can apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate, who will charge an administration fee of £215 for processing the application. If there is any Inheritance Tax payable on the deceased’s estate, this will need to be dealt with prior to the issue of the Grant of Probate.
Letters of Administration
If the deceased died without a will, they are said to have died ‘intestate’. With this, a Grant of Probate cannot be granted by the Probate Registry, and instead the Letters of Administration will be required. This is governed by the rules of intestacy, and there is a set list of priority in terms of who is entitled to administer an intestate estate, which are:
- The surviving spouse or civil partner,
- Nieces and nephews,
- Other surviving relatives.
Sometimes, the deceased may have left a will, but may not have named an executor, or the appointment of an executor may fail, for example, where the named executor has not survived the deceased, or is not willing to act. In this instance, the deceased is said to have died ‘partially intestate’, and the Letters of Administration will therefore be required.
It is crucial to ensure that matters are in order in the eventuality that you pass away. One way to achieve this is to have a will in place. This is a legal document drafted by a solicitor which details your wishes once you pass away, and can deal with the distribution of property, assets, and even govern the care of minor children. Wills are also a useful tool to ensure that your estate is dealt with in the most tax efficient way, and for this reason, it is essential that this is prepared by a legal professional. A will can be simple, for example by leaving your entire estate to your children, or complex in nature, tailored to suit your individual needs, such as the creation of trusts to ensure that a loved one is sufficiently protected upon your death. Furthermore, it is important to keep your will under constant review, especially when reaching important milestones in your life, such as the birth of children and grandchildren, the purchase of property, and upon marriage and divorce.
As mentioned above, if a valid will is not in place upon your death, you are said to have died ‘intestate’, and the rules regarding your assets are dealt with according to the rules of intestacy. These are lengthy and often complex, and can sometimes mean that a person’s estate is not dealt with in accordance to their wishes when they were alive. For example, the rules of intestacy provide for surviving spouses and civil partners, but pay little consideration for long term relationships and life partners, often meaning that they do not inherit from the deceased’s estate.
The priority in which the estate is dealt with is similar to that in deciding who can administer an intestate estate, but depends on a number of circumstances, such as the number of surviving children. If there are no living relatives, the estate of the deceased ultimately passes to the Crown.
It is essential to ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place so that your assets are dealt with in accordance with your wishes, prior to your death, and it is therefore advisable to ensure your will is kept current and up to date.
Specialists in probate matters
Kew Law has a dedicated and experienced team of wills and probate solicitors, with the knowledge and expertise to prepare or review your will, and provide specialist advice in relation to dealing with the estate of a loved one.
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