Probate is the term used to describe the process of sorting out someone’s assets when they die – dealing with their property, closing bank accounts, transferring or realising other investments and possessions (referred to as their assets) they have left behind.
A grant of probate is the formal document issued to the executors of a will enabling them to deal with the deceased’s assets. 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 document called a ‘grant of letters of administration’ instead of a grant of probate. Both types are grants of representation and perform the same function.
An important distinction is that the powers of an executor commence from the date of death. The powers of an administrator, however, commence much later, i.e. when the grant of letters of administration is issued, which will often be months after the death. A hiatus can occur when no one has authority to deal with the deceased’s asset and is an important reason for making a will.
How long does it take to get a grant of representation?
It can take just a few weeks, but usually several months at present, 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.
The form is an 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.
This is usually £155.00 together with £1.50 for any extra sealed copies as required.
How does the Probate Process Work?
Our will and our estate are individual to each of us, so the full probate process can vary depending on the instructions that have been left in the will.
The basic process for an executor will include:
- Bringing together the full details of the estate’s assets and debts
- Making the application for a Grant of Probate (this is the formal document giving the authority needed to administer the estate)
- Completing an inheritance tax return and paying any tax due.
- Change the order of 2 and 3 above
Inheritance Tax return
The Inheritance Tax (IHT) return 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 statement of truth when it has been signed by the executors or the administrators (collectively known as Personal Representatives or ‘PRs’). The statement of truth has replaced the oath for executors and oath for administrators.
The statement of truth 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.
How long will it take for probate to be granted?
The grant normally takes a few weeks 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.
How long will dealing with Probate take?
For most estates probate will take around twelve months to complete. Each estate is different and completion will depend on the size and complexity of the estate. International Probate may be more complicated as this involves assets in more than one country and usually takes longer to complete.
Disputes concerning Probate
Disputes may come up during the probate process which may cause delays with administering estates. We have a highly skilled team of solicitors able to advise and deal with Contentious Probate matters.
For a free initial discussion regarding a probate matter please call 020 7485 8811 or complete our online enquiry form.