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Obtaining probate – the process


Identify assets and debts
The personal representatives [PRs] are responsible for finding out what assets the person who has died owned – e.g. bank and building society account, property, insurance policies, shares, premium bonds. Each institution will have to be informed of the death and date of death valuations obtained.  Any property and contents will also need to be valued. The PRs are also responsible for obtaining details of any debts outstanding and for ensuring these are paid.

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The grant
In the process of obtaining probate, the grant is a formal document issued by the probate registry that confirms the authority of the PRs tAct t and deal with the administration of the estate. If there is a will, a grant of probate is obtained; if the deceased died without a will, then a grant of letters of administration is required.


A grant is not always necessary. If the value of the assets is small, there is no house, or all the investments are held in joint names, a grant may not be required.


A grant cannot be applied for until any inheritance tax (“IHT”) due has been paid and a receipt obtained for this, which must be provided to the probate registry. An IHT account giving details of the assets within the estate and the debts must be prepared together with a short oath which the PRs must swear – a quick and simple procedure.


Collecting and distributing the assets
Once the grant has been obtained, it must be produced to all organisations that the deceased held investments with, enabling them to release the money. Any debts must then be paid together with expenses before what is left is distributed to those entitled under the terms of the will. Assets do not necessarily have to be sold or cashed in; shares can, for example, be transferred to those entitled if they prefer to keep them.


Protection of PRs
In certain circumstances, PRs can become personally liable for debts of the estate or claims made against it. Our Probate Solicitors will discuss with you simple steps that you may wish to take to ensure that in carrying out your role you attract no risk of personal liability.


It is very difficult to accurately predict how long it will take to complete probate as no two estates are the same. Tensions or disputes between family members and beneficiaries, large numbers of assets, and complicated assets such as businesses or farms all cause delay; assets abroad usually mean needing to instruct a lawyer in the country concerned to deal with those assets. Banks and building societies can be slow to respond to requests for information and selling property can also cause delays.


As a general estimate, it takes between 6 and 12 months to complete a routine administration but smaller, straightforward estates can be finalized in Little le as 3 months.


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