Can I Apply for Probate during an Inquest?
06 February 2019
If someone's death has been reported to the coroner, after completing their preliminary enquiries and an investigation, the Coroner may decide to hold an inquest to establish the circumstances surrounding the death. The official death certificate will not be issued until the inquest has concluded. However, the coroner will issue an interim death certificate in the meantime, meaning that it will still be possible to apply for Probate and deal with the administration of the Estate.
What is an Inquest?
In certain circumstances, when someone dies their death will be referred to the coroner. This may be the case if, for example, the cause of death is unknown, or if the death was violent or unnatural.
The role of the coroner is to establish details such as when, where and how the person died. In order to find out this information, the coroner may decide that a post-mortem examination is needed and they may then decide to carry out an inquest into the death.
Applying for Probate during an Inquest
When someone dies, regardless of the circumstances, it will be necessary to wind up their affairs and distribute their Estate to those entitled to inherit it. Depending on the size and content of the Estate as well as who is inheriting it, it may be necessary to obtain legal authority to carry out this work.
This legal authority is conferred by the Probate Registry with a legal document called a Grant of Probate (if the deceased left a Will) or granted by Letters of Administration (if they didn't). These two documents work in essentially the same way, in that they grant the named person legal authority to wind up the deceased's affairs. For simplicity, we will refer to the Grant of Probate in this article, but please note that the same also applies to the Letters of Administration.
In order to apply to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Probate, it is necessary to include details of the fact of the deceased's passing. However, if the coroner decides to carry out an inquest, the death certificate will not be available and the death cannot be registered until after the inquest has concluded.
For this reason, the coroner will issue an interim death certificate which simply confirms that the named person has died, but doesn't state the cause of death. This interim death certificate is sufficient to enable the Grant of Probate to be issued by the Probate Registry. It will also be accepted by financial institutions, such as banks, so you can use this to notify them of the death.
There are a number of documents that will also need to be included with the Probate application. These documents are:
- Inheritance Tax form (this will be either the IHT205 or the IHT400 depending on whether or not the Estate is liable to pay Inheritance Tax)
- Signed Oath (this is a legal document in which you confirm that the information provided is true to the best of your knowledge). It includes details of the deceased's date of death, as will be indicated on the interim death certificate
- Original Will, if there is one, along with any Codicils (amendments or additions to the Will)
- Probate application from PA1 (for personal applications) along with the Probate application fee
For more information, see What Documents Do I Need when Applying for Probate?
Probate Advice during an Inquest
If an inquest is being carried out following the death of your loved one and you're unsure of what the next steps are, our Coroner and Inquest Probate Solicitors can help. We can apply for Probate on your behalf and keep you updated on what to expect at each step of the way. We can also work closely alongside our Personal Injury Inquest Solicitors if there is a claim for compensation running at the same time, so you can rest assured that everything is being taken care of.