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 representation will be issued, allowing the personal representatives to distribute the estate according to the will (or intestacy rules if there is no will).

Applying for probate and estate administration can be a complicated task for those you leave behind, but it can all be made much easier just by making a will. Not only will it ensure your wishes are carried out exactly as you wanted them, but there will be a clear set of instructions for your pre-appointed executors to follow. If you haven’t got round to making your will yet (we know it happens), take action now, we’ve made it all so easy for you to do, there aren’t any excuses anymore.