So, just what is Probate?
Probate is a legal document which allows a nominated person / people to take control of a deceased’s Estate, to pay off any debts and liabilities, carry out any wishes of the deceased and distributing the Estate accordingly.
Probate is an essential process, unless most of the deceased’s assets were jointly owned or the Estate's value is less than £5,000. Financial institutions will each have their own limit on whether they need to see a Grant of Probate to release funds and allow you to control the deceased’s Estate, so it is worth checking.
You will get a Grant of Probate if the deceased left a Will, or a Grant of Letters of Administration if there was no Will. While they both are essentially the same, the difference is who may apply.
Applying for Probate
If there is a Will, you will be applying for the Grant of Probate. The deceased should have named Executors in the Will, and these are the people who will be taking care of the deceased’s Estate and applying for probate. Only four people can apply for probate and be named on the Grant of Probate. So, even if the deceased has named more than four Executors on the Will, only four may be named on the Grant. If there is more than one Executor then you must prove that you have tried to contact all the Executors named in the Will
Applying for Letters of Administration
You may have to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration for a few reasons, these include:
If there is no Will or the Will is not valid
There are no Executors named in the Will
The Executors named are not able to or are unwilling to act
However, there is an order of priority about who may apply to be an Administrator. This order follows the Rules of Intestacy:
Married partner or civil partner of the deceased
Child of the deceased
Grandchild of the deceased
Parent of the deceased
Brother or sister of the deceased
Nephew or niece of the deceased
Another relative of the deceased
What is the point of probate?
Probate is a necessary process that ensures the correct person / people are in control of the deceased’s Estate. If you have a Grant of Probate you are able to prove to financial institutions that you have the power to deal with and administer the deceased’s Estate. Therefore, it is a form of protection over the deceased’s Estate. Most institutions will require proof that there is legal authority allowing the person to handle the deceased’s Estate.
How to apply for probate
To apply for probate you must submit an account of the Estate’s assets as well as an application form. You will also need to submit the correct Inheritance Tax form with this application.
The Executor of the Will can apply for probate, or if there is no Will then you must follow the Rules of Intestacy to establish who should apply.
The form you must complete is called the PA1P if there is a Will. Along with this form you will need to send the Will to your local probate registry, as it becomes part of public record. You may want to make copies of the Will for your own record, as you will not get the original Will back. But it is important not to remove any bindings or staples, as you will have to send a letter explaining any alterations.
If there is no Will you must complete the PA1A form.
You can apply online if you are the Executor of the deceased’s Estate, have the original Will, and have the official death certificate. You also will need to have reported the Estate’s value prior to this point.
Apply by Post
You can apply for probate by post too.
When applying by post, you will need to send documents to your local probate registry, along with the application form. The documents you need to include are:
The original will, as well as any updated versions (if there is one)
The official death certificate
You will need to pay the application fee which is currently £215 if the deceased’s Estate is valued at £5,000 or over. There is no application fee for Estates valued under £5,000. You may also need extra copies of the Grant of Probate, these are valued at £1.50 each. The extra copies may be needed to send to different organisations at the same time.
Changes due to Coronavirus
While it is still possible to complete the necessary forms to apply for a Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration, there has been a fall in applications due to the restrictions in place in response to Coronavirus. This is due to some people being unable to obtain documents and information that they require, such as original Wills that may be stored with a firm in an office.
The Probate Registry has also agreed to accept electronic signatures. They are accepting statements of truth instead of affidavits, with the big difference being that the statement of truth only requires a signature, but the affidavits had to be sworn in front of a solicitor.
However, even though there have been some practical difficulties that have arisen, you can still apply for probate as normal, and should still be able to administer the Estate once the grant has been received. But you should expect some delays in this process.