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A beginner’s guide to probate

When a loved one has recently died you might start hearing a lot of mention of the word “probate”, but if you’ve never been through the “probate process” before you may well not know what that means.

Being probate solicitors in Leamington Spa and Coventry we felt that it might be helpful if we explained some of the terms that you may be getting used to hearing.

The term “probate” relates to a “grant of probate” which is the formal document issued by the court to executors of a will after someone has died once they have satisfied various conditions.    We often use the term “grant of representation” as this covers both the “grant of probate” and the “grant of letters of administration” which is the document issued when someone dies without making a will.

If someone dies without making a will then this is known as “intestate”, you may also hear the term “intestacy”.

How do I know if they made a will?

The first thing you need to do is discover whether the deceased left a will.  You may already know this but if you don’t then you might want to consider going through their personal papers to see if you can find a copy of a will.

As will and probate solicitors we recommend that our clients leave their copy of the will (we store the original free of charge at our offices for our clients) with their personal papers to try and make it easier for their loved ones to find.  Some people choose to keep their will with their passports or perhaps bank statements or in a safe.

If you can’t find a copy of a will then you could approach any law firm that you know the deceased had connections with, for example the solicitors that dealt with their house purchase.

If after doing this you’re still not sure then, if you live in Leamington Spa or Coventry or surrounding areas why not call Field Overell LLP and we will do our best to assist you.

Who is entitled/ required to deal with probate?

Whether you need to “get probate” will depend on a number of different things.

Did the person that died leave a will?

If so are the “executors” (the people appointed to obtain the grant of probate, gather in the deceased’s assets, pay any liabilities and distribute the balance to the beneficiaries) able to act?  If they are then the executors may need to apply for a grant of probate.

If the person that died did not leave a will

It will be up to the closest living relatives (there is a strict order set out in law) that will be entitled to act as their “administrators”.  Administrators do essentially the same job as an executor but there are some technical differences between the two roles.

Example:  David’s wife Mabel has just died after a happy marriage of 20 years.  Mabel did not have a will.  As David is her spouse, he will be the person first entitled to act as the administrator of her estate. 

The term “personal representatives” or “PRs” refers to either executors or administrators.  For the rest of this document we will use this term.

Do we need probate?

Whether the personal representatives need to obtain a grant of probate will depend on the assets of the deceased.

Often, if an estate is worth less than £50,000 all held in bank accounts or building societies, it is not necessary to obtain a grant of probate.  In that case the PRs often approach the banks/ building societies to obtain the cash held and then deal with the rest of the process of administering an estate.

If the person owned property or stocks and shares then it is more likely that a grant of representation will be required and it is best to seek advice from a Probate Solicitor to find out.

 Example – David and Mabel

As we know Mabel did not leave a will and so David will be her administrator.  David and Mabel and owned their house together in joint names, they have around £40,000 worth of savings. 

There are two different ways to own a property jointly “tenants in common” or “joint tenants”.  David and Mabel own their property as tenants in common which means that a grant of representation will be required. 

If David and Mabel had owned their property as “joint tenants” then depending on the requirements of the banks/ building societies, David may not have needed to obtain a grant of representation.

How do I get help with probate?

Field Overell LLP are solicitors in Leamington Spa and Coventry who specialise in wills and probate.  We help people in Leamington Spa, Warwick, Coventry and surrounding areas with probate.  If you live in those areas why not give us a call and we can talk you through what might be required.

We pride ourselves on our friendly professional approach so don’t worry, we won’t mind if you “ask a stupid question”.  We understand that this is a difficult and stressful time for you and we will do our best to make the process as simple and hassle free as we possibly can.

Call Lorna Payne or Alice Ogilvie-Smals

01926 422101 or 024 7622 9582.

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