What is involved in a grant of probate or letters of administration?

What is involved in a grant of probate or letters of administration?

The term “probate” is used to describe the process whereby a deceased person’s affairs are dealt with by an executor or an administrator. It comes from “Grant of Probate” which is the legal document that must be obtained by the executor (an administrator – who is responsible for the estate where there is no Will gets a document called “Letters of Administration”) in order to gain access to the affairs of the deceased.

A Grant of Probate and/or Letters of Administration proves an individual’s legal right to manage the Estate of someone who has passed away, depending on whether or not they died leaving a valid Last Will and Testament.

A Grant of Probate is applied for when an individual dies leaving a valid Last Will and Testament. Probate is usually required when dealing with certain assets of an individual who has passed away, for example, if they owned a property, or if they have an account (or accounts) holding more than £50,000.00. The Executors of the Will are the applicants, and we can assist them with the application to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Probate. This includes providing a detailed account of Estate assets/liabilities, paying any inheritance tax (if applicable) and sending the original Will to the Probate Registry.

The Probate Registry currently advise of a timeframe of up to 16 weeks to issue a Grant of Probate.

Letters of Administration are applied for where an individual dies without leaving a valid Last Will and Testament.  This is known as dying ‘intestate’. Those entitled to apply to the Probate Registry for the Grant of letters of Administration are dictated by the intestacy rules. For example, a spouse, or children of the deceased. The application process is similar to that of the Grant of Probate, other than that we would not send the original Last Will and Testament to the Probate Registry, as there would not be one to send if someone has died intestate. We would however be able to assist with the application, and collating a schedule of assets/liabilities, as well as assisting with the inheritance tax queries.

Obtaining the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration usually allow the Estate assets to be collected in and distributed (especially if they are valued over £50,000.00 in bank accounts for example), and for assets such as property, to be sold or transferred to beneficiaries.

Although it is possible for an individual to undertake the process themselves, it can be complicated and time-consuming, especially if there are a large number of beneficiaries (people receiving gifts) or the value of the estate is a particularly high or there are a lot of different types of investments. That is why having the matter dealt with by an experienced solicitor is often the route chosen by many people. We are able to assist in the submission of both of the above applications.

The work we will need to carry out in order to deal with a grant of probate or the administration of an estate will depend upon the complexity of the estate and what needs to be done.  Thus, a simple estate comprising a house in the sole name of the deceased person, a bank account and some savings in a building society being left to a single child of the deceased person will require far less work than if there are multiple properties (with some possibly overseas), shares and investments, insurance policies, business interests and multiple gifts and beneficiaries to be administered.

We will always advise you to the best of our ability at the outset as to the likely complexity of the arrangements.

As a general overview, however, the work that we will be carrying out in the administration of an estate can include:

  • Taking your initial instructions and advising you on the terms of the deceased’s Will and discussing the duties of the executors.
  • Obtaining a valuation of the estate (which could include houses, possessions, bank and building society accounts, insurance policies and shares) and working out whether there are any liabilities.  This might involve:
    • writing to utility providers such as gas, electricity and telephone providers;
    • dealing with council tax;
    • dealing with house insurance (and in particular making sure that it does not lapse following the death);
    • writing to share registrars and others responsible for any investments; and
    • gathering together details of any bank accounts.
  • Once we have been able to get a value for the estate, we will then prepare the Inheritance Tax form, Oath for Executors (application for the Grant) and work out the Inheritance Tax payable in relation to the Estate.
  • We will send the Inheritance Tax forms to HMRC and arrange the first payment of Inheritance Tax from the assets of the estate. We can then submit the application for the Grant of Probate.
  • Once we have the Grant, we can send it and any relevant letters of authority to the various banks, insurers, financial institutions, and managers of investment in order to collect in the assets and discharge any liabilities.
  • Take any further steps needed in relation to Inheritance Tax and obtain a clearance certificate from HMRC.
  • Make arrangements for the disposal of any property such as houses, possessions and so forth that have not been specifically left to beneficiaries.
  • Arrange any necessary statutory notices for creditors in the London Gazette/Local press.
  • Identify and then correspond with beneficiaries regarding the distribution of the estate and pay any interim legacies or any pecuniary legacies that are due under the Will.
  • Prepare Estate Accounts for executors.
  • Carry out bankruptcy checks for beneficiaries.
  • Ultimately pay out the final balance.

We will always ensure that you are kept fully informed as to what we are doing.