What does probate actually involve?

Managing a loved one’s affairs when they die is never easy. But, unfortunately, probate is one of the many things that you’ll have to deal with.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the entire process of administering a dead person’s estate. This involves organising their money, assets and possessions and distributing them as an inheritance – after paying taxes and debts.

If the deceased has left a Will, it will name someone they’ve chosen to administer their estate. This person is known as the executor of the Will.

What Is A Grant of Probate?

Before they start, the executor must apply for a Grant of Probate, a legal document that gives them the authority to deal with the deceased’s property.

Probate ends once all taxes and debts have been paid and all inheritance passed on.

This guide is here to help you with the probate process. We’ll explain how probate works, how long it takes and how much it costs. We’ve also put together a list of commonly asked questions to help you further. 

  • How Does The Probate Process Work?
  • How Long Does Probate Take?
  • How Much Does Probate Cost?
  • Who Can Apply For Probate?
  • Can You Get Probate If There Is No Will?
  • Can I Challenge Someone’s Will?
  • Can A Will Be Changed After Death?
  • What Rights Does A Beneficiary Have?

How Does The Probate Process Work?

Every estate and every Will is different. The probate process can vary depending on the instructions left in the Will and the assets, creditors, and beneficiaries the estate has.

The basic process for an executor is:

  1. Gather the full details of the estate’s assets and debts
  2. Apply for Grant of Probate (permission to administer the estate and pass out inheritance)
  3. Complete an inheritance tax return and pay any tax due
  4. You receive a Grant of Probate
  5. Repay any of the deceased’s outstanding debts
  6. Distribute the rest of the estate according to the instructions left in the Will.

Probate can also be complicated if disputes exist between the executor, beneficiaries, creditors, or HMRC.

Our solicitors can advise on or help with any stage of the probate process. For example, we can help if disputes are stopping you from making progress or can even take over your duties as executor entirely.

How Long Does Probate Take?

This will take about a year for most estates. The exact amount of time will depend on the size and complexity of the estate.

International probate can be more complicated and usually takes between six months and two years.

Sometimes disputes can arise during probate between the executor, beneficiaries, creditors, or tax authorities. These disputes can delay you in administering the estate.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

We offer a highly personalised service for each of our customers. The cost will depend on the amount of work you’d like us to do.

When you speak to one of our team, we’ll: 

  • Judge how much work is involved based on your requirements and the size of the estate
  • Give you an estimate for our fees before starting any work
  • Always quote a fixed-fee cost, if possible, for your peace of mind.

Who Can Apply For Probate?

Only the executor named in the deceased’s Will can apply for probate to administer their estate.

If you have been named executor but don’t want to administer the estate yourself, we can apply for probate on your behalf.

If someone dies without a Will, they are said to be intestate. The intestacy rules will tell who can apply to administer the estate instead. 

Read the question below to find out what you can do if a loved one has no Will. 

Can You Get Probate If There Is No Will?

You can’t get a Grant of Probate if there isn’t a Will, but you can still administer the estate and distribute inheritance through a slightly different process.

The intestacy rules set out who can apply to administer the estate with a Grant of Administration. Without a Will deciding how to pass on the assets, the administrator distributes inheritance according to intestacy rules. Only spouses, civil partners, children, and other close relatives can inherit under these rules.

Can I Challenge a Will?

You may be able to challenge or contest a Will if you think it doesn’t accurately represent the deceased’s intentions for their estate or because you think it is invalid for other reasons.

You can contest a will if:

  • The Will has been forged.
  • The deceased had reduced mental capacity when writing their Will.
  • The deceased were under undue influence when writing their Will.
  • You were financially dependent on the deceased, and the Will doesn’t provide for you (as required by the Inheritance Act).

What Rights Does A Beneficiary Have?

A beneficiary is someone who is due to receive an inheritance from an estate.

If you’re a beneficiary of a Will, you’ll have specific beneficiary rights that the executor of the estate needs to abide by.

If the deceased has left a valid Will, the beneficiaries of their estate will be named in the Will. The beneficiaries will be chosen according to the intestacy rules if there is no valid Will.

Beneficiaries have a right to information during the probate process. The executor is responsible for keeping beneficiaries up-to-date with how the estate administration is progressing. When asked, they must keep accounts for the estate and show them to beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries can take legal action against an executor if they breach these rights or if the executor is mismanaging the estate.

Can A Will Be Changed After Death?

You can change a valid Will, but you can only make changes to the share of the inheritance that it has given you. So, for example, you could:

  • Give specific assets to different people instead.
  • Give away your whole entitlement.
  • Reduce inheritance tax
  • Use your inheritance to set up a trust for your family.

You will need to apply for a document called a deed of variation, or a deed of family arrangement, to do this.

Source Irwin Mitchell Solicitors

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