Can I Arrange Probate Before I Die?
17 February 2017
You can't begin probate until after a death has occurred, but if someone close to you is nearing the end of their life, you may be able to support them in organising their legal and financial affairs. For more information visit our page planning ahead for probate.
In this article we answer “what is probate?” and explain why you can't arrange probate whilst you are still alive.
Can probate be arranged while I'm alive?
Probate, also known as estate administration, is the legal process that takes place to sort out a person's Estate "after" their death. This includes establishing the assets and liabilities in an estate, proving the will, collecting in the assets, paying any Inheritance Tax (IHT) or other debts that are due, and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.
Probate relates entirely to the assets that you own at the time of your death. Some people will have very small estates, and if so probate may not be required. But others will own assets, such as property, savings or investments, that will trigger the need for probate. This means that their executor or administrator will have to apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate. Once issued, they will have the legal authority to deal with the estate.
Therefore it's not possible to complete probate before you die. There could be a real difference between the assets and liabilities in your estate when you are alive and after you die. You could have significantly more, or significantly less. This would affect the amount of Inheritance Tax you would have to pay and could result in over-payment or underpayment.
What can I do about probate before I die?
You can make a will to ensure that your wishes are carried out by your executors after your death. Your executors will be chosen by you and should be people that you trust to deal with your estate. If more than one executor is appointed, you should choose people who can work well together in the interests of your estate. By making a legally valid will you can safeguard against problems with the probate process.
If you do not make a will, the law provides a set of rules that state who will administer your estate and who will benefit from it. These are called the rules of intestacy. Your estate will pass to your nearest blood relatives, even if you don't want it to. This means that if you have a partner and you are not married, or you are in a civil partnership, they will not inherit anything from your estate.
In addition, if you have children under the age of 18 and you do not leave a will appointing guardians, your children may not be cared for in the way that you hoped. If you make a will you will be able to leave a Letter of Wishes addressed to your guardians expressing how you want your children to be educated, cared for and maintained.
You should tell your Executors that you have appointed them as such in your will. This ensures that it will not come as a surprise when you die, at which point they will likely be the first point of call.
You should also tell your executors and loved ones where your original will is held as this will be required to complete the probate process.
It's a good idea to keep an up to date list of your assets and debts which will be easily found amongst your papers. This will help your executors deal with the probate process.
Whether you want to make a will to plan for the future and make sure you are in control of what happens to your estate, or you need help with probate after someone dies, Co-op Legal Services can help you.