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What is probate

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What is probate

A grant of probate is the formal document issued to the executors of a will enabling them to deal with the deceased’s assets for e.g. selling property and shares, closing bank accounts and transferring or realising other investments. The grant is issued by one of the District Probate Registries in England or by the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court.

When someone dies without having made a will the next of kin (closest relatives of the deceased who are entitled to sort out the deceased’s affairs) are referred to as ‘administrators’ instead of executors and they apply for a grant of letters of administration instead of a grant or probate. Both these types of grants are grants of representation and perform the same function.

How long does it take to get a grant of representation?

It can take just a few weeks or sometimes longer to get the grant, depending on how complex the estate assets are and how quickly it is possible to get together all necessary information to complete the inheritance tax (IHT) return which has to be done before the grant can be applied for. This form is IHT400 or IHT205 depending on the type and value of the estate. If IHT is payable some of this has to be paid before the grant will be issued but banks and building societies usually release monies from the deceased’s accounts for this purpose.

Probate fee

This is usually £155.00 together with £0.50p for any extra sealed copies as required.

The Probate process

First, a lot of information has to be obtained about the deceased and their assets and liabilities, including date of death values. Effectively a snapshot of the net value of the deceased’s estate as at the date of death has to be obtained. This information is included in the IHT return which when completed is lodged with HMRC where tax is payable and the necessary IHT is sent to HMRC. If no IHT is payable, the tax return IHT205 is sent direct to the chosen probate registry with the oath when it has been sworn by the executors or the administrators (collectively known as personal representatives or ‘PRs’). The oath is the document by which the PRs formally apply for the grant of representation and promise to collect in all the deceased’s assets, pay any debts and distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the will or as required by the Intestacy Rules which apply when someone dies without a valid will.

The grant normally takes a week or so to issue and then it is sent to the banks, building societies etc and then accounts can be closed, shares transferred or sold and the monies released will be used to pay any outstanding debts of the deceased. The balance can then be paid to the beneficiaries under the terms of the will or in accordance with the Intestacy Rules.

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