What is Probate?
When a person dies everything that they own including their possessions become known as their estate. This can include a wide variety of things such as cars, houses, jewellery and money.
When someone writes a Will, this allows their estate to be divided in accordance with their wishes to individuals such as friends and family or to charities that are special to them. Should someone die without a Will in place, the estate will be divided in accordance with the rules of intestacy which are set of legal rules that determine who receives a person’s estate. This can mean that the estate is divided between people who the deceased did not want to benefit and miss out key people from those entitled to receive.
If you are given responsibility for dealing with an estate – usually through being named in the Will, you are known as an executor. You may need to apply for a legal document called a Grant of Probate, before you can deal with the estate. It is important to note that you do not always need a Grant of Probate in order to deal with the estate. If you aren’t sure or you have questions, please call us on 01752 827076 and we’d be delighted to help.
If there is no Will or the named Executors do not want to act, an Administrator is responsible for dealing with an estate usually as a result of being a beneficiary in the estate. In this situation, the administrator has to apply for Letters Of Administration before they can deal with an estate.
Many people decide to ask a lawyer to help them through the probate and administration process to ensure that everything is carried out correctly.
Our highly experienced and skilled team can help you through this difficult process, either by obtaining the Grant of Probate on your behalf, but also undertaking the collecting in and distributing the estate.
How long does it take to obtain the Grant of Probate?
It’s hard to give a general idea of how long it will take to obtain the Grant of Probate. However, if there are no complications, then we estimate a four to five week period. Collecting in the assets then follows which can take on average 2-8 weeks depending on the types of assets in the estate. Once this has been done, we can distribute the assets for you. The timeframe for this depends on whether there are any children under 18 years old and the view that the Executors or Administrators take on distributing the estate before the end of the 10 month claim period. One of our team would be happy to talk this through with you in more detail.
If the person who died owes money to other people, for example, a mortgage, credit cards or credit agreement then this comes out of the estate. You should check whether the person had any kind of insurance policies in place that would pay their debts on their death (for example payment protection insurance or life insurance).
In general, if there is not enough money in the estate to pay the debts, then their creditors cannot recover the amount still owed from anyone else. Occasionally, the debt may be a joint one – a joint bank account, joint credit agreement or joint mortgage. If this is the case, creditors can recover the debt from the surviving person.
If there is a mortgage on the property
If the property is to be inherited by someone and there is still an outstanding mortgage on it, the mortgage company will either require the mortgage to be paid immediately or ask the person who inherits the property to take over the mortgage.
If there is a mortgage on the property, there might be a life insurance policy, an endowment policy, or mortgage protection policy which will pay the outstanding mortgage if the person with the mortgage dies.
If the property is to be sold, the mortgage will be paid out of the proceeds of the sale of the property.
Joint Bank Accounts
Couples may also have a joint bank or building society account. If one dies, the money will go to the surviving partner without the need for probate or letters of administration. The bank will probably need to see the death certificate in order to transfer the money to the other joint owner.
Probate or letters of administration may still be needed if there are other assets that are not jointly owned.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing [email protected] or by calling 01752 827076.