When a person dies somebody has to deal with their estate (the money, property and possessions left) by collecting in all the money, paying any debts and distributing the estate to those people entitled to it. The term ‘probate’ means the issuing of a legal document to one or more people (the executors or personal representatives) which is their authority to do this.
The probate registry, on application by those entitled, issues a document, which is called the grant of representation. These are three types of grant of representation:
- Probate. This is the Grant issued to one or more of the executors named in the deceased will.
- Letters of administration (with the will attached). Issued when there is a will, but there is no executor named, or when the executors are unable to apply, or do not wish to be involved in dealing with the estate
- Letters of administration. Issued when the deceased had not made a will, or any will made is not valid.
Why is a grant necessary?
Those holding money in the deceased’s name need to know to whom the money should be paid, and the grant is proof that the person named in it may collect the money. The grant is proof to anyone wishing to see it that the person named in it is entitled to collect in and distribute the estate. The distribution of the estate to the correct people named in the Will is then responsibility of the person named in the grant.
Is a grant always needed?
These are organizations that may release the money to you without a grant, if the amount held is small and there are no complications. Among these are insurance companies and or building societies. Sometimes a grant is not needed and it will be possible to ask anyone holding the deceased’s money whether they will release it to you without seeing a grant. If they agree they may attach conditions. It is for you to decide which is the cheaper or easier option.
You will not usually need a grant when a house is held in joint names and it is clear that the house automatically becomes the property of the surviving owner. You will however need a grant to transfer or sell a property held only in the deceased’s name. Do not advertise any house for sale too soon after the owner’s death, as a sale cannot be completed until you have obtained the grant. The date of issue of the grant cannot be guaranteed to coincide with the final stages of any sale.
Am I entitled to a grant?
There are rules, which govern who may be awarded a grant, and whether or not one is issued may depend on the circumstances in a case.
If there is a will with named executors they are the first people entitled to a grant.
If there are no executors or the executors are unable or unwilling to apply, the next person entitled to a grant is any person named in the will to whom the deceased gives all his estate, or the remainder after the gifts have been paid.
If the deceased has not made a valid will, his or her next of kin should normally make application for a grant in the following order of priority:
- Husband or Wife:
- Sons or Daughters; *
- Brothers or Sisters; *
- More distant relatives.
(* Or if any have died in the lifetime of the deceased then their sons or daughters may apply)
A grant cannot be issued to any person under the age of 18.
When more than one person is entitled to a grant you may all obtain a grant together, however there is a maximum of four applicants allowed. In most cases only one person needs to obtain a grant, but there are circumstances when you and another person may need to obtain a grant together.
How do I apply for a grant?
The five stages for applying for a grant are set out below and explained later in greater detail:
- Obtain the application forms; These are available online
- Choose where you wish to be interviewed;
- Complete the application forms;
- Return them, with the death certificate and the original will to the appropriate probate registry
- Attend the interview
This form asks you to give a full account of the deceased’s estate. You should try to obtain the full value of all items shown, including any interest or bonus, which will be paid. Any money due from the deceased’s employer should be included. The full market value of any house should be shown, although a professional valuation is not normally required. The value of household goods, jewellery and belongings should be shown as the amount for which they could be sold.
Why do I have to be interviewed?
The purpose of the interview is to confirm the details you have given and to answer any queries you may have.
To complete your application you will be asked to sign a form of oath, and swear or affirm before the interviewing officer that the information you have given is true to the best of your knowledge.
In most cases only one interview is required.
If you application is complicated there may be additional documents to be signed, or you may be asked to contact other people (for example a witness to the will) so that we can interview them or obtain their signatures to documents.
What about duty or tax?
( Inland Revenue’s website http://www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/cto/ )
In most cases no inheritance tax is payable.
In cases where inheritance tax is payable a grant cannot be issued until tax has been paid.