What is ‘probate’?

Probate is the process of proving who is legally entitled to deal with the estate of someone who’s died. Commonly, it also describes the process of dealing with a deceased assets and affairs. Probate and Administration Technically probate only covers the situation where the deceased has a will which appoints executors. Where there is no will, or where there is a will but no effective appointment of executors, the process is called administration. Administrators are appointed by the court. Executors and administrators are together referred to as personal representatives. Executors apply for a “grant of probate”. Administrators apply for a “grant of letters of administration”. These are together referred to as “grants of representation”. Why are grants of representation important? Grants of representation are important because they show that the personal representative has authority to deal with the deceased’s estate. Applying for grants of representation – the steps involved Before applying for a grant the personal representatives must value the estate and report it to HMRC for inheritance tax purposes. Once the inheritance tax formalities have been completed, the personal representatives can apply for the grant of representation. To do this the executors or representatives will need to swear an oath. The content of the oath varies depending on circumstances, but it always includes: The deceased’s name, address and dates of birth and death. The personal representatives’ full names and addresses. A promise that the personal representative will administer the estate correctly. The personal representatives then send the oath, together with the will and any probate forms to the Probate Registry. Assuming all is in order, a grant of...

What is a ‘trustee’?

A trustee is a person who has legal responsibility for assets on behalf of somebody else, called the beneficiary. Trusts have all sorts of uses. They can be complicated they don’t have to be. In fact even the most simple of wills might require someone to take legal responsibility for assets on behalf of someone else. A good example of this is where a will leaves something to a child under 18 In that case a trust is needed to hold the assets for them until they reach 18 (or older if that’s what the will specifies). What does a trustee do? A trustee’s responsibility is to manage assets in the best interests of the beneficiary or beneficiaries. The trustee’s powers to deal with assets are governed by statute, as well as the terms of the will. Back to the knowledge...

What is an ‘executor’?

One of the most important tasks involved in writing your will is to appoint executors. These are the people who will manage and distribute your estate after you’ve died, using the instructions you make in your will. What does an executor do? Typical responsibilities can include: Collecting and listing all of the assets in the estate – bank accounts, property, possessions etc. Valuing the estate. Applying for a grant of probate. Making sure all debts, bills, taxes (including inheritance tax) and funeral expenses are paid for out of the estate. Sell off assets if needed. Distribute whatever is left, following the wishes made in the will. Keeping a record of what they’ve done in the form of estate accounts. How many executors? If you are leaving all or most of your estate to your partner it is common for that person to be the sole executor of the will. Otherwise it is usually a good idea to appoint more than one executor to share the responsibility. You should also consider appointing substitutes in case your chosen executors die before you do or in case one of them can’t act when the time comes. You can actually appoint as many executors as you want, but only a maximum of four will be able to apply for probate. Two people are usually enough. Related Articles: Who can be appointed as an Executor? How do I appoint an Executor for my will?  Back to the Knowledge...

What is a ‘guardian’?

If you have children under the age of 18 you will probably want to nominate a guardian for them in case you and the child’s other parent were to die. You can only appoint a guardian for your children if you have parental responsibility for them. You can read more about who has parental responsibility and what will happen if there is no will in our ‘What happens to your children if you die without a will’ article. A guardian’s role and responsibilities The role of a guardian is essentially much the same as a parent and can include the day to day care of the child and making decisions about how they are looked after, educated and treated medically until they reach the age of 18. Find out more about choosing guardians in our ‘Appointing guardians for your children in your will’ article. Trusts Most children will also be beneficiaries of their parent’s estate and their inheritance will usually be held for them in a trust until they are 18. The guardians will be able to use any income from the investment of that inheritance for the upkeep of any children left in their care. You can read more about trusts and trustees in our ‘What are trustees in a will’ article. If you have children you will want to make the right decisions for them and we’re here to help – from appointing guardians and trustees to choosing what to leave them. Your will is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure your children are provided for in the event of your death. So...

What is meant by my ‘estate’?

In basic terms your estate is everything you own, less anything you owe. So that’s your property, money, investments, vehicles and possessions, less your debts for example: money owed on loans, mortgages or to the tax man. Most of the things you own can be dealt with in your will, the main exceptions are: Money held in joint accounts – which will automatically go to the other account holder. Property which is owned on a joint tenant basis – where your share of the property will go to the other owner. Financial products such as pensions and life insurance policies which will have their own rules on what happens to them when you die. Find out more in our ‘What can’t be left in a will?’ article. Back to the knowledge...