When someone dies ‘Probate’ is the term used to describe applying for the right to deal with and administering the deceased person’s estate and affairs. Different terms may be used depending on where the deceased lived and whether or not they made a will before they died. So What does probate mean?
If the deceased has left a will then one or more executors may be named to handle the deceased’s affairs upon their death. The executor has to apply for a ‘grant of probate’ from the probate registry (a section of the court). This grant is a legal document which confirms the executor’s authority to deal with the deceased’s estate and assets.
In the event that the deceased did not leave a will (or at least a valid will) then a close relative (sometimes the law requires more than one) can still apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. Once given the relative would then be known as the administrators of the estate which similarly to being an executor of a will gives them the legal authority to deal with the deceased’s affairs.
This is a very simple summary of probate, in reality with estates being complicated and multiple (sometimes conflicting) beneficiaries and tax issues, probate can become a very complex task requiring professional advice to administer the estate. As with many things if in doubt always consult a professional advisor before making any decisions. Fins a probate advisor that works on a fixed fee so you know exactly how much their services will cost before you proceed.
Using a professional advisor does takes away much of the stress of dealing with complex legal matters and can ease the work of administering the estate at what is usually a very difficult time so is well worth considering.
Unfortunately many people do not leave a will and sometimes there are no known close relatives either. It is in these cases that the estate will be referred to the Treasury Solicitor’s Office and then be published on the Bona Vacantia list. This is where Heir Hunters come in and try to trace living relatives of the deceased and claim the estate for the rightful heirs. In some cases however no beneficiaries can be found and the estate will eventually go to the treasury.
This being the case if you have no close relatives or wish your estate to be inherited by someone else then it is vital to make a will stating your wishes clearly. Wills must be legally binding though so do make sure you seek professional advice on making a will otherwise it could be ignored if considered invalid after your death.