A guide to UK probate

You may not wish to consider it but at some point, you will need to familiarise yourself with some level of probate either due to the loss of a loved one or to make you own preparations of how your will should be managed after the inevitable occurs. Thankfully, probate is a fairly streamlined aspect of the law and it can almost be managed entirely by yourself and a local or family solicitor with very little cost and inconvenience. Especially when compared to the possible legal battles that have happened when there is no last will or testament.

What is probate in the UK?

In the event that someone has died without a known will, their assets, monies and possessions (which are collectively referred to as the estate) are held by the state in probate. The manager or executor of this estate must receive a ‘grant of representation’. If there is a will, the executor will present it to probate and receive a grant of probate, allowing them to manage the estate as indicated in the will. If there is no will, the next of kin has the right to apply for letters of administration, which allows them to administer the estate. The time taken to apply and receive these documents is referred to as ‘going through probate.’ Probate law varies across the different governments of the UK, so this article will only focus on England’s practice of probate.

Relevant people and the probate process

The responsibility of the executor is to carry out or ‘exert’ the will of the deceased. They legally have to gather the assets, pay any debts and deliver the estate or assets to those named in the will.

When there is joint ownership of an asset i.e the family home which is jointly named on the mortgage with a jointly named bank account, this allows the living member to assume full ownership without the need for probate. However, this law does not apply to ‘common law’ partners, unless there is a legally-binding agreement (such as a cohabitation agreement) between the two parties involved.

Probate can take up to eight weeks for simple cases; there has been disruption to probate related to COVID-19, so you should expect delays. The estate will also affect the time it takes for probate to occur; one with shares, foreign bank accounts and complex financial instructions will take much longer. There is an administration fee on estates. If you have a probate solicitor, that will usually be incurred in their costs when you are billed for their services.

If your probate case is greater than £5000, or there is any aspect of the inheritance which is disputed, there may be grounds to seek out a probate solicitor Emsworth with probate experience. But for most cases, probate can be handled by a layperson if you stay organised. However, if at any stage in the proceedings it becomes confusing, or if another family member is looking to dispute the will, contact a legal representative.