Probate Jargon Buster: Glossary of Terms

15 September 2017

If a loved one has recently died, you may have been told that Probate is needed. You may never have heard of Probate before, let alone all the different terms associated with the process.

At Co-op Legal Services, we’re dedicated to providing legal support without the jargon. But sometimes it’s difficult to avoid, particularly as third parties will often refer to terms such as ‘Estate’ and ‘Personal Representatives’.

So to help you understand, we’ve compiled a glossary of terms that you might come across during the Probate process.

Administrator – an Administrator is someone who is responsible for finalising the Estate of a person who has died without a Will. There are rules around who an Administrator can be, and it will typically be the deceased person’s main beneficiary.

Beneficiary – a beneficiary is someone who receives an inheritance from a deceased person’s Estate. If there is a Will, the deceased person will have chosen their own beneficiaries. If there isn’t a Will, a set of laws called the Rules of Intestacy will determine who the beneficiaries are.

Estate – an Estate is the collective term for everything a deceased person owned. This can include property, money in the bank, savings, investments, stocks and shares, vehicles, jewellery and other personal possessions including pets.

Estate Administration – Estate administration is effectively the process of winding up a deceased person’s Estate. It involves calculating the value of the Estate, paying off any debts that the deceased person owed, paying any tax liabilities that are due (including Inheritance Tax), closing accounts (such as bank accounts), notifying government organisations, and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. Usually a Grant of Representation will be needed before the Estate administration process can be completed.

Executor – an Executor is someone who has been named in the deceased person’s Will to finalise their Estate. This person has been appointed under the Will, which makes it different from being an Administrator. An Executor is responsible for going through the Probate and Estate administration process. However, an Executor can step down if he/she chooses. For details see Renunciation as Executor of a Will.

Grant of Letters of Administration – where there is not a Will, the Administrator of the Estate must apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. Only once this has been issued will the Administrator be able to start finalising the Estate.

Grant of Probate – where there is a Will, the Executor/s of the Estate must apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate. The Executor/s will not be able to begin the process of Estate administration until a Grant of Probate has been issued.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs*.

Grant of Representation – a Grant of Representation is the overarching term for a Grant of Probate and a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Intestate – when someone dies intestate, it means he/she has died without a valid Will in place. When this happens, the Rules of Intestacy will decide who receives an inheritance.

Personal Representative – a Personal Representative is the overarching term for Executors and Administrators. The term is often abbreviated to ‘PR’.

Probate – Probate is a legal process you must go through in order to get the legal authority to deal with a deceased person’s Estate. If there is a Will, the Executor will apply for Probate. If there isn’t a Will, the Administrator will apply for Probate. Unless Probate is completed, no one will be given the legal authority to do things like access the deceased person’s bank accounts or sell their property. However, Probate is not needed every time someone dies – it depends on whether the deceased had assets in their sole name and how much their Estate is worth.

Probate Registry – the Probate Registry is part of HM Courts service. To get the legal authority to deal with a deceased person’s Estate, you must complete the necessary forms and send them to your nearest Probate Registry. The Probate Registry will then review your application and decide whether or not to issue a Grant of Representation.

Renunciation – Renunciation is when an Executor formally steps down from their role.

Rules of Intestacy – the Rules of Intestacy come into force when someone dies without leaving a valid Will in place. They are a set of laws that dictate who will benefit from the deceased person’s Estate and in what proportion. Surviving relatives are put into a fixed ‘order of priority’, with the next of kin benefiting most from the Estate.

Small Estate – a small Estate is when the value of an Estate falls below the Probate threshold. The threshold for Probate depends on the financial institutions that are holding the deceased person’s money. If an Estate is deemed to be ‘small’, Probate won’t be needed. For details see Probate for Small Estates.

* We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate owns sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to cover our costs.

If you need help with probate, contact us:

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