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Frequently Asked Questions about Probate:

Everything you need to know about Grants of Probate.

What actually is a Grant of Probate?

It's basically a certificate indicating that you are the person that is entitled to wind up the deceased person's estate (i.e. money, shares, property etc). Despite using the word 'grant' it has nothing to do with students or home improvements. It is obtained from the Probate Registry and is an official document that is recognised by banks, building societies, solicitors etc. as proof that you are entitled to deal with the estate

What is a grant of letters of administration?

Exactly the same as a Grant of Probate, but it applies where the person died without making a will. If they died leaving a Will then it's called Grant of Probate, if no Will then it's a Grant of Letters of Administration. Yes it is quite a mouthful. In these circumstances there are also rules that state how the deceased's estate needs to be split up (these are known as the rules of intestacy - because someone who dies without leaving a Will is said to have died 'intestate'). You can use the expression Grant of Representation to cover either a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Why do I need a Grant of Probate if there is a Will?

It's really an extra security step. Potentially anyone could produce a document claiming it to be the last known Will of the deceased. Banks, Building societies etc. would then have to know if it's a valid Will and so on. They wouldn't know where to start with this. The Grant of Probate is issued by an independant body - the Probate Registry, so the banks, Building Societies etc. can rely upon it and let you draw the money out of the deceased's bank accounts (for example).

There is only a little bit of money in the bank. Do I need Probate?

A Grant is almost always needed when a person who dies leaves one or more of the following: stocks or shares certain insurance policies property or land held in their own name or as 'tenants in common' However, the rules for banks and building societies, etc. are less clear. Each institution has its own rules. Some banks will allow you to remove £20,000 from the deceased’s bank account by showing their death certificate, and by swearing on oath that you are the next of kin. But some banks will need a Grant of Probate for anything over £5,000.

How long will it all take?

Please see our rough guide to obtaining a grant about this (and our guide to Probate), but as you can see from the guide it is generally difficult to say. If we are applying to obtain a Grant of Representation, it usually takes around 4 weeks. If we are fully administering an estate, it can take days from the point of receiving the Grant, or years depending on the assets involved.

I had Power of Attorney. Do I need a Grant?

Any kind of Power of Attorney will end once the Donor of the Power of Attorney has died. So if you need some kind of Grant of Representation to deal with the deceased’s affairs, then you cannot use a Power of Attorney. You must apply for a different kind. Someone appointed under a Power of Attorney is not necessarily an Executor, and will not necessarily be able to obtain a Grant of Representation.

I’m appointed as an Executor in a Will, and that person has now died. Do I have to fill out all the forms and do all the work myself?

Not if you don’t want to. An Executor’s role is voluntary. If you do not have the time, or simply find it too difficult to deal with, you can ‘renounce’ your role and allow others to take your place. Most Wills will name replacements to cover exactly this situation. But if not, parties who have sufficient interest in the deceased’s estate can apply for a Grant of Representation and administer the estate in your place. You can also appoint a Solicitor or other party to handle the estate on your behalf.

I'm being pursued to pay the funeral account, but I can't afford it and the Grant of Representation is still weeks away. What can I do?

If you give a copy of the funeral account to them, most banks will draw up a cheque payable to the funeral directors for you to pay the invoice.