Applying for Probate
When a loved one dies, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of admin involved in sorting out their affairs and dealing with Probate. Before you start the process, make sure to understand what is ahead and what you need to do to wind up their estate. For example, who can apply for Probate? And how do you do it?
Read our answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions…
2) 30 Second Summary
Probate is the process of winding up a deceased’s person’s estate.
To apply for Probate you must be either named as an Executor in the Will. Where there is no Will, you must be the deceased’s next-of-kin
You cannot undertake any of the duties until you have been given authority via the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. You can apply for this online or via post.
2) Who Applies for Probate?
The person appointed to deal with Probate will depend on whether a few different factors apply:
- When there is a Will: The majority of Wills are going to name one or more persons who will handle the Probate. This role is called an Executor. This person is usually a family member, close friend or a professional like a solicitor or an accountant.
- When there is no Executor named in the Will or
- When there is no Will or
- When the Executor does not or cannot perform their duties: The role of dealing with Probate will fall to the deceased’s next-of-kin. So in most cases a spouse or their children. If this happens, you are called the Administrator.
- When there is no named Executor in the Will but you are the sole Beneficiary. It will fall to you to be the Executor.
As mentioned above, if you are named in a Will as an Executor of someone’s estate, that does not mean you have to do it. If, for whatever reason, you are not able or do not want to do it, you can decide to do so.
Does Having a Will Help?
Yes – having a Will can help the Probate process in some ways. It can simplify the work for the Executors, in that they don’t have to track down Beneficiaries, creditors and others you need to contact or deal with in connection to the estate.
3) Being an Executor
Before embarking on this process, it is always good to see what things you will need to do first. The Probate process contains a number of tasks that must be done to wind up an estate, some of which are to be done in a certain order as well. Some are done before applying for the Grant of Probate, while others absolutely must not be done until the authority has been given to you by the Grant.
Since you are dealing with a person’s full financial and legal affairs, it is important to keep good records and accounts from the very beginning, and keep your records in a safe place. You will need to use good organizational skills to keep on top of everything so that the process works smoothly and that, should any questions be raised later on, you can provide your detailed records to prove that everything was done properly.
Dealing with Probate is mainly a lot of painstaking administrative work. Staying organized can also be achieved by making a comprehensive checklist of all the things you need to do, and keeping detailed notes and what has been done so far. As you have a lot to deal with, it is not going to be easy to keep a running list of tasks in your head. Write them down. If you are doing this around your own personal duties or work, create a schedule to help you work through tasks at a manageable rate.
4) The Probate Application Process
If there is a Will with named Executor(s), you will need to apply for the Grant of Probate. If there is no Will or Executor(s) named, you need to apply for Letters of Administration.
You can do this either online or by post.
Before starting the application, you must have registered the death and obtained the death certificate. You must also have a valuation of all the deceased’s assets.
At this point, you hopefully already know whether you are able to deal with Probate or not. If the deceased has a very complicated estate, you may decide to seek the help of a solicitor. For some of these “red flags” which could indicate potential problems out of your remit, read our next section.
You can apply online if you meet this criteria:
- The deceased was resident in England or Wales.
- You have the original copy of the Will and the death certificate
- You have submitted a valuation of the estate to the HMRC
In which case, you can follow the online instructions on the government website.
By Post Application
You will need to obtain either the PA1P form (if there is a Will) or PA1A form (if there is no Will). You will need to complete this and send it to the Probate Registry along with the other required documents:
- The original copy of the Will and three copies
- The original death certificate
- The Inheritance tax forms
- The fee
You can only act as the Executor once you have received back the Grant or Letters.
2) Should You Instruct a Solicitor?
While it is a lot of work, many people manage to apply for Probate and handle to process themselves. If a person’s affairs were relatively straightforward you should be able to deal with things without an issue. However, not everyone has a straightforward situation. Here are a few issues which could potentially arise.
- The deceased was bankrupt or had an insolvent estate.
- The Will was ambiguous or has unclear instructions.
- You have doubts about the validity of the Will.
- The deceased was a business owner.
- The deceased owned property or assets abroad.
- There is potential for disputes over the Will. For example, family members have been excluded or have a much smaller inheritance than others.
- There are issues between the Executors.
These kinds of issues take dealing with Probate from a manageable task to one that requires the expertise of a solicitor. Remember – all expenses are to be paid out of the estate. So while you may be wanting to avoid paying solicitor’s fees, it is also important to acknowledge that.