What is Probate

What is Probate? 

Many people ask what Probate is.

When someone dies, they will usually leave a series of assets with their name on – such as bank accounts, investments and property.

The Banks and investments companies and anyone who, in due course, might want to buy the property, will all want to know who has authority to deal with the estate. In particular, who can sign to close an account or sell the property?

If the estate has only a few small accounts, then a bank might be prepared to deal with them on the strength of seeing a certified copy of the last Will. However if there are significant sums in the account, or if there is a shareholding or property then one needs an official document confirming who has legal authority.

That official document is called a Grant of Probate.

It is issued by the Probate Registry (a court office) and will give the details of the person who has died and confirm who the Executors are who have the authority to deal with matters. The document will bear the court seal and have a copy of the Will attached.

Once obtained, it can then be sent to the Bank and other financial institutions to authorise them to close the accounts. It can also be used to give authority to the Executors to sell property.

Obtaining the Grant of Probate involves submitting a sworn oath (which we as Solicitors can prepare) together with the original Will to the probate registry.

However before issuing the Grant, the court office will want confirmation that any Inheritance Tax due has been paid. As a result the first step in applying for probate is to register the death with the financial institutions where accounts are held, collect in details of all the assets in the estate and their values and complete the necessary Inheritance tax returns and, if required, pay the first instalment of Inheritance tax that is due.

Depending on the value of the estate, this can be a significant task and we, as Solicitors, will usually undertake this work.

Where there is no Will, a similar process is required but the application is made by those entitled as the next of kin (as opposed to the Executors) and the grant is called Letter of Administration.