What is a Grant of Probate and do I need one?

How to sort out financial affairs when someone dies

What is a Grant of Probate and do I need one?
What is a Grant of Probate and do I need one?

When someone dies it will be necessary for their financial affairs to be sorted out. If a valid Will has been left, Executors will have been appointed for this purpose. If there is no Will, the law sets out who can apply (called an "Administrator").

Grant of Probate

Put simply, a Grant of Probate (or "Letters of Administration" if there is no Will) is a document which provides legal authority to deal with a person's estate on their death. This document can then be used to sell assets, close bank accounts and generally finalise a person's financial affairs.

Is a Grant of Probate required?

To determine whether a Grant of Probate is required, it is first of all necessary to carry out a thorough assessment of the person's assets at the date of their death. If most of the assets where jointly owned, chances are they will pass by a process called "survivorship" to the surviving joint owner, and a Grant of Probate will not be required. If the estate consists of bank account savings of less than £10,000, it is likely a Grant of Probate will not be required.

It will also be necessary to contact the various financial institutions to check their procedures and financial limits.

Different banks and building societies have different policies in this regard but most will have a dedicated bereavement department who can advise whether a Grant of Probate is required.

Assessment of assets

If the deceased person owned a property in his or her sole name, a Grant of Probate will be required to enable the property to either be sold or transferred to the beneficiaries. Similarly, where stocks or shares were held a Grant will also be needed to arrange a sale or transfer.

Legal responsibilities

Once the assets of the estate have been established and it is clear whether a Grant of Probate is required, it is sensible to obtain legal advice as soon as possible to progress matters and to ensure that the proper formalities are complied with.

There are many legal responsibilities and obligations involved with being an Executor/Administrator and to prevent personal liability it is important these obligations are complied with.

Inheritance Tax

Furthermore, if Inheritance Tax is due on the estate this must be paid by the end of the 6 month period after the date of death, therefore it is imperative to avoid delay in this regard. It will also be necessary to make contact with HMRC and the DWP to find out if there is any outstanding tax to be paid or whether any money is due to the estate.

If you would like any further information about the above issues, please contact Sarah Dawson from our Wills, Trusts and Probate Team on sarah.dawson@hcsolicitors.co.uk.

Sarah Dawson LLB TEP, Senior Solicitor

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.