What Does It Mean to Be Granted Probate?
24 January 2018
When winding up the affairs of someone who has died, it will often be necessary to be granted Probate. This is a legal document which grants authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.
Winding up a Deceased Person’s Affairs
When someone dies, all of their possessions, including money and properties, form part of their ‘Estate’. One or more people will need to administer the deceased person’s Estate, which includes dealing with their assets and paying off any outstanding debts that they had (known as their ‘liabilities’).
If the deceased person left a Will, then the administration of the Estate will be carried out in accordance with the terms of the Will. If the deceased passed away without leaving a valid Will, the administration would be governed by the law, under what is known as the Rules of Intestacy.
What is a Grant of Probate?
Dealing with a deceased person’s Estate sometimes requires the person responsible for this to apply for and obtain a Grant of Probate. If the deceased left a Will, then this should appoint an ‘Executor’ to carry out the role. If they didn’t leave a Will, then the Rules of Intestacy will appoint an ‘Administrator’ to carry out this role instead.
For low value Estates (also known as ‘small Estates’) Probate is not always required. For more information, see Why Probate is Not Required on a Small Estate.
The Grant of Probate is an official document issued by the Probate Registry (a section of the Court). This document gives the Executor or Administrator authority to manage the deceased’s Estate, including their property, money, debts and possessions.
Being granted Probate by the Court is the first step in the legal process of administering the Estate.
Dealing with a Deceased Person’s Finances
Depending on the value of cash assets in the Estate, the Grant of Probate would, in most cases, need to be registered with the deceased person’s bank and any other relevant financial institutions.
For instance, if the deceased had a significant amount of money in an account (above a certain threshold, which differs from institution to institution) the bank would only close the account and release the money if they are presented with the Grant of Probate. Similarly, if the deceased owns any shares or investments, it will not be possible to transfer or sell these without the Grant of Probate.
The Grant of Probate will not be required by the bank or financial institution if the deceased only held small amounts of cash in their bank accounts, which is below that institution’s threshold. In this instance, the bank may be willing to release the funds once a copy of the death certificate is produced.
Likewise, there is no need for a Grant of Probate to be issued in order to manage jointly-held assets as these would automatically pass to the surviving co-owner.
Dealing with a Deceased Person’s Property
As the Estate is comprised of everything that the deceased person owned at the time of their death, this will include any property that was owned in their sole name. Therefore, it is the Executor’s or Administrator’s duty to deal with the property as part of the Estate administration.
It is worth noting that, whilst the property can be put up for sale, it cannot be sold before the Grant of Probate has been issued.
If the property was owned jointly, this will affect how it is dealt with. If the property was owned with someone else as joint tenants, then the property will automatically transfer to the surviving co-owner.
If the property was owned with someone else as tenants in common, then this means that each person owns a specific share of the property. In this instance, the share owned by the deceased person will be inherited by whoever the deceased has left it to in their Will, or in line with the Rules of Intestacy if there was no Will.
How Long Will Administration Take once Probate is Granted?
The time required to complete the administration of an Estate once Probate has been granted is dependent upon the size and complexity of the Estate. Factors that may affect the time it takes will include the assets owned by the deceased (including any foreign assets or properties) what outstanding debts they had and whether there is any Inheritance Tax to be paid.
Selling a deceased person’s property is often the most time consuming asset to deal with and could delay the administration process significantly.
Other factors which can delay the Estate administration process further include contentious matters (where Beneficiaries, Trustees or Executors disagree) and claims that are made against the Estate.
Claims against an Estate can be brought within six months from the issue date of the Grant of Probate. These claims are normally made under the Inheritance Act by anyone who may think they are entitled to inherit from the Estate. Claims can also be made by the Department for Work and Pensions who sometimes investigate whether the right amount of benefits were paid to the deceased during their lifetime.
On average, however, administration of an Estate will usually be concluded within six to nine months from the date of death.
Please note that if Inheritance Tax is due on the deceased persons’ Estate, then the Inheritance Tax has to be paid before a Grant of Probate can be issued.
With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for obtaining Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (not VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs*.
*We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate has sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to repay our costs.