When a death occurs, it’s a painful, upsetting and difficult time for everyone concerned. Trying to come to terms with the emotional aspect of losing a loved one is hard enough without having to deal with the practical aspects of Probate as well. To help find a way through the legal jargon, we spoke to Tony Crocker from IWC Probate & Wills.
What exactly is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of dealing with a person’s estate (their property, money and possessions) after they have died.
Is Probate always necessary?
No, probate is not always necessary; it depends on the assets of the person who has died. Typically, if the person had assets which were jointly owned (for example property, money or shares) then probate is not needed, as these will automatically pass to the surviving owners.
However, if a person owned a property or other assets in their sole name, then probate is necessary. In this case, you will need to contact the organisation which is holding the assets (such as a bank or mortgage provider) to find out if you’ll need to apply for probate to get access to their assets. Some banks will release up to £50,000 before requiring probate, but this often depends on who the next of kin is.
Photo: Melinda Gimpel
Who can apply for Probate?
It depends on whether the person who died left a will. If they left a will and you are named in the will as an ‘executor’ then you will be able to apply for probate.
If the person didn’t leave a will, this is know as ‘intestacy’ and an Administrator will have to be appointed. An administrator must be over 18 and is usually the closest living relative of the person who has died.
What is the difference between a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?
All these legal terms can be quite confusing, but put simply, if the person left a will, you’ll need to apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’. If the person did not leave a will, you’ll need to apply for ‘Letters of Administration’.
If the person left a will, the Executor will apply for a Grant of Probate and the person’s estate will be distributed as per the wishes of their will.
If the person died without a will, the Administrator will apply for Letters of Administration and the person’s estate will be divided as per the intestacy rules.
Photo: Scott Graham
What about Inheritance Tax?
Unfortunately, when going through the process of probate, inheritance may also be a consideration. If the person’s estate exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold of £325,000 and is not being passed to a spouse, then inheritance tax will apply. However certain reliefs and exemptions can be claimed, and in some situations Inheritance Tax does not apply unless the assets exceed £1m. It can therefore be a good idea to speak to a probate expert to make sure you are fully informed.
For help with questions relating to wills and probate, you can call the Bereavement Team at IWC Probate & Will Services on 020 8150 2010.