Probate is the legal and administrative process that you have to go through after someone’s death. The first question to deal with is, ‘Is there a will?’ If so, does the will name an executor? If the answer to both those questions is yes, then whoever has been named as executor is the person who is legally responsible for obtaining probate on the deceased’s estate. More than one executor may be named; quite often one will be a close family member while the other will be a solicitor. Even if you are named as an executor, you can actually decline to fulfil that role if you so desire.
If a person dies intestate, that is without having written a will, then someone has to be appointed as an administrator, usually a close relative. In the quite rare event that someone dies intestate and there are no surviving relatives, then the whole estate will go to the Crown. If you are named as administrator, then you will have to obtain probate in much the same way as an executor.
As an executor or administrator you do not need to obtain probate if the net worth of the estate is below £5,000. The net worth is reached by adding up all the deceased person’s assets then subtracting any liabilities such as credit card debts or outstanding utility bills. You can also subtract the costs of the funeral. The resulting sum is the net values of the estate. When that is less than £5,000, you should be able to handle all the estate affairs by the presentation of the death certificate which is obtained from the Registry Office.
If you do need to get probate, then you must apply to the local Probate Registry office for a Grant of Representation if you are an executor or for Letters of administration if you are an administrator. After you have submitted the application form, you will be invited to the office so that a Commissioner can ascertain that the facts you have presented in the form are true and accurate. You will be asked to swear an oath to that effect.
Although individuals can apply for a Grant of Representation or Letters of Administration, in the case of high-value or complex estates, it is advisable to seek legal advice from a solicitor. You may decide to put the whole matter in the hands of a legal representative, or you may decide to share the task. It is worth noting that probate can be quite straightforward if the deceased’s affairs are simple and all in good order but where this is not the case, it can be quite a difficult and time-consuming task.