Common Questions About Probate

We know how confusing and stressful dealing with probate can be, especially at what is already likely to be a very difficult time. To help take some of the confusion out of dealing with probate, we have answered some of the most common questions our probate team hear from our clients.

Have a question we haven’t answered or looking for expert legal guidance on dealing with probate? Please get in touch with our friendly expert probate solicitors in Westbury-on-Trym and Shirehampton and we will be happy to help.

Call now on 0117 9380222 or get in touch with your local Devereux & Co office.

Probate FAQs

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of dealing with the estate of someone who has passed away. It involves various stages, including:

  • Identifying all of the deceased’s assets including property, investments and possessions
  • Find out what, if any debts and other liabilities the deceased had e.g. mortgages, credit card debts, outstanding utility bills
  • Identifying the beneficiaries of the deceased’s Will (or under the rules of intestacy where there was no valid Will)
  • Verifying the identities of all of the beneficiaries
  • Calculating any Inheritance Tax (IHT) due on the estate, notifying HMRC of any IHT due and ensuring this is paid
  • Applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Representation (or Letters of Administration in cases of intestacy) giving you the legal authority to deal with the estate
  • Arranging the sale or transfer of any assets such as property included in the estate and distributing all other assets of the estate to the beneficiaries
  • Producing estate accounts

Who is responsible for handling probate?

Where there is a Will, there will be one or more named Executors. One or more of the named Executors can take charge of the probate process. If none of the named Executors are able or willing to take on the role, a professional Executor such as a solicitor will often be appointed.

If there is no valid Will, the deceased’s next of kin will usually need to apply to become the Estate Administrator, giving them the authority to deal with probate.

Is probate always required?

In most cases, probate will be required to deal with the estate of someone who has passed away. However, there are two circumstances where probate may not be required.

  1. Where the deceased’s estate is valued at less than £5,000.
  2. Where all of the deceased’s assets were held jointly with another person (e.g. if they owned their home as ‘joint tenants’ with their spouse or partner).

How long does probate take?

This will depend on the circumstances as there is no specific time limit for completion of probate.

Where there is no inheritance tax, probate can often be dealt with in as little as 3 to 6 months.

However, where there is inheritance tax to pay, property to sell, beneficiaries that must be tracked down or other complex issues to deal with, probate can take much longer.

How much does probate cost?

This will depend on exactly how much help you require with probate. If you simply need assistance with obtaining grant of probate or dealing with Inheritance Tax (IHT) we are usually able to provide this service for a fixed price.

However, if you need assistance with other areas of probate or would like us to take charge of the entire process for you, the cost will generally be based on a pre-agreed hourly rate.

For an indication of the cost of probate, please take a look at our probate pricing guidelines.

At what stage of probate does Inheritance Tax need to be paid?

You will need to assess the estate’s liability for Inheritance Tax (IHT), complete an IHT return and submit this to HMRC and pay any Inheritance Tax due before applying for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.

How long after probate is granted does it take to receive an inheritance?

There is no set time limit, but it will usually take up to 6 months for bequests to be distributed to the beneficiaries.

What happens if the executor does not distribute the estate after probate?

If the executor does not appear to be making any progress towards distributing the bequests from the estate following grant of probate, you may be able to have the executor removed and replaced. You will need to apply to a court to do this and will need to show that the delay in distributing the estate assets is not justified.

How can you get a copy of a Will?

Before probate is granted, only the Executors of the Will are entitled to see a copy. If you are named as an Executor in a Will, the person who made the Will (the ‘testator’) should normally have informed you of this and told you where the Will is stored.

It is common for a copy of the Will to be lodged with the testator’s local Probate Registry and a copy to be held by the solicitor who drafted the Will.

If you are not a named Executor of the Will, you do not have a legal right to see the Will before grant of probate. However, Executors will often be happy to allow beneficiaries of the Will to see a copy on request.

Once probate has been granted, Wills become public documents meaning anyone can view a copy by applying online.

Can you stop grant of probate?

If probate has not yet been granted, you can ‘enter a caveat’ at any Probate Registry for a small fee. Probate can then not be granted for the next six months, unless you withdraw the caveat sooner. You can renew this caveat as often as you like, meaning that grant of probate can be delayed indefinitely if required.

Get in touch with our probate solicitors in Shirehampton & Westbury-on-Trym

Have a question about probate we haven’t answered here? Please get in touch with our friendly expert probate solicitors in Westbury-on-Trym and Shirehampton and we will be happy to answer your query.

Call now on 0117 9380222 or get in touch with your local Devereux & Co office.