The Probate Process Explained

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The Probate Process Explained

Probate is something that many of us will have to deal with at some point in our lives. Managing a loved one's probate is never going to be an easy task - but with the proper care, advice and guidance, we will help you understand and deal with it when the time comes.

This guide will explain to you the probate process and will hopefully make you feel more at ease about what it entails.


What Is Probate?

Probate is the process of administering a deceased person’s estate. This involves organising their money, assets and possessions and distributing them as inheritance after paying any taxes and debts.

If a Will was made by the deceased it will name someone that they’ve chosen to administer their estate - this person is known as the executor.


What Is A Grant Of Probate?

The executor of the Will must apply for a Grant of Probate, this is a legal document that gives them the authority to deal with the deceased’s property. Probate ends once all taxes and debts have been paid and all inheritance has been passed on.


The Probate Process

Every Will is different and the exact probate procedure can vary depending on the different instructions left in someone's Will. The basic process for the Will executor should be:

  • To gather the full details of the estate’s assets and debts
  • Apply for the Grant of Probate to get permission
  • Complete an inheritance tax return and pay any tax due
  • Receive a Grant of Probate
  • You will repay any of the deceased’s outstanding debts
  • Then the rest of the estate will be distributed according to the instructions left in the Will

Complications can arise, including if there are any disputes between the executor, beneficiaries, creditors or HMRC. Any complications your solicitor will help you with and will be there to guide you every step of the way at any stage of the process as we as solicitors understand it can be a difficult and overwhelming process. We can help and give advice with disputes and even take over the duties of the executor entirely.


How Long Does It Take?

The amount of time it takes for probate will depend on the size and complexity of the estate. For the majority of estates it will take about a year, whilst international probate can be more complicated and usually takes between six months and two years.

Sometimes when disputes come up during probate, it is these disputes that can delay you in administering the estate. Your expert probate team of solicitors will help you resolve any issues you might have to face with disputes, you will not need to worry.


Who Can Apply For Probate?

It is only the executor named in the deceased’s Will that can apply for probate to administer their loved one's estate. If you have been named executor but do not want to administer the estate yourself, we can apply for probate on your behalf.

If someone dies without a Will, they are said to be intestate, the intestacy rules will say who can apply to administer the estate instead.


What Happens If There Is No Will?

You cannot get a Grate of Probate if there is no Will - but you can still administer the estate and distribute inheritance through a slightly different process. The rules of intestacy are set out who can apply to administer the estate with a Grant of Administration.

Without a Will, the administrator distributes inheritance according to the rules of intestacy. Only spouses, civil partners, children and other immediate relatives can inherit under these rules.


Can The Will Be Challenged?

A Will can be challenged or contested if someone doesn’t think the Will accurately represents the deceased’s intentions for their estate, or if they think the Will is invalid for other reasons. Some of the reasons a Will can challenge include:

  • If the Will has been forged or believed to be
  • If the deceased person's mental capacity has been reduced at the time of writing their Will
  • The deceased was under undue influence when writing their Will
  • If someone was financially dependent on the deceased and the Will doesn’t provide for you (as required by the Inheritance Act)


Can A Will Be Changed After Death?

It is possible to make changes to a valid Will, yes, but you can only make changes to the share of the inheritance that it has given to you - for example:

  • Give specific assets to different people instead of keeping them
  • Give away your whole entitlement
  • Reduce inheritance tax
  • Use your inheritance to set up a trust for your family

You will need to apply for a document called a deed of variation, or a deed of family arrangement in order to do this.


The Rights Of A Beneficiary

A beneficiary is someone who is due to receive an inheritance from an estate. If you are a beneficiary of a Will then you will have certain beneficiary rights that the executor of the Will will need to abide by.

In a valid Will, the beneficiaries of their estate will be named in that Will. If there is no valid Will, the beneficiaries will be chosen according to the intestacy rules.

Beneficiaries have the right to information during the probate process, it is the executor's responsibility to keep beneficiaries informed and up-to-date with how the estate administration is progressing. They must keep accounts for the estate and show them to the beneficiaries when asked for.

Legal action can be taken against an executor if they breach the rights of a beneficiary or if the executor is mismanaging the estate.


How Our Wills And Probate Team Can Help You

We have a highly skilled and friendly team of Wills and Probate solicitors who have plenty of experience and can offer a supportive, personal and sensitive service to you at an extremely difficult time.

We are straight up and honest about our fixed fees so you can stay in control of your legal spending at all times - so let us take the burden and stress away from challenging paperwork and processes. We can also assist you with making a will and estate administration.

Call for a free consultation today so we can discuss your situation and answer any questions you may have.

Jessica Flaherty

Jessica is Partner and heads our Private Client Team. Jessica graduated with a degree in Law from Liverpool John Moores University in 2012. Jessica completed her LPC at Liverpool John Moores University in 2013 and in 2021, she qualified as a Trust and Estate Practitioner having completed the STEP Diploma in Trust and Estates.

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