Probate Law is the set of legal regulations that govern who can deal with the financial and administrative affairs of a person who has died. When the deceased has left a will which names an executor, it is that person who is responsible for obtaining probate. They must apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Representation, the document that gives them the legal authority to administer the financial and other administrative affairs of the deceased.
You can apply for a Grant of Representation yourself or use a solicitor or another professional with a license to provide probate services. You make your application by filling in a probate application form and submitting it to the Probate Registry Office nearest to you. Executors are also required by law to fill in an Inheritance Tax Form, even in cases where there is likely to be no inheritance tax to pay.
Once the executor has submitted the form, the Probate Registry office will be in touch to ask you to attend the office to swear an oath that the facts in the form are true and accurate to the best of your knowledge. If you are working with a solicitor, in most cases you can swear an oath in front of witnesses and sign a document that the solicitor can submit without you having to appear personally at the Probate Registry Office.
Once the Probate Registry staff have checked your application, you will be granted probate and you can then do things like open a dedicated bank account to receive monies from the deceased’s estate before it is distributed to the beneficiaries of the will.
If someone dies intestate, that is without a valid final will, the procedure is similar but some of the terminology is different. Someone will become the administrator. The law defines just who that is with the spouse or civil partner the first choice and then relatives of declining closeness coming next.
Just as with the executor, the administrator must apply to the Probate Registry to get probate, but in this case it is called Letters of Administration. A form is filled in, an oath is sworn and then the administrator will have broadly similar powers as an executor to administer the affairs of the deceased.
It’s worth remembering that not all estates of deceased people need to get probate. If the estate is worth less than £5,000 it will usually be possible to release bank accounts and to do things like end utility contracts by producing the death certificate which is obtained from the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.