When a loved one dies: What is ‘probate’ and do I require it?

17th January 2020

When a loved one dies: What is ‘probate’ and do I require it?

A Grant of Probate (as it is called if there is a Will, or a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ if not) is sometimes required in order to deal with the assets of a deceased person. Essentially, it is the granting of the legal authority to do so.

The need for a Grant of Probate is completely dependent on the nature and value of the assets that were owned by the deceased. For example, if the last surviving legal owner of a property passes away then a Grant of Probate will most definitely be required in order to sell or transfer that property later on.

It may however be that there is no property held within the estate, but cash assets such as sole bank and saving accounts. The requirement for a Grant of Probate in these circumstances will depend on the value contained within the accounts, and different banks and building societies tend to set their own limits as to how much they will release without the need for a Grant of Probate. Some stipulate that anything held in excess of £15,000 will require it, whereas others may be happy to release funds in excess of around £40,000 before it is needed.

Conversely, you may assume that if there is a significantly large sum in the bank that this will most definitely require a Grant of Probate, but this may not be the case. Again, it depends on the nature of the asset and if that bank account was held in joint names with another person, it will actually have passed to the surviving joint owner automatically by what is called ‘survivorship’. In this instance, the bank account does not actually comprise the estate of the deceased and therefore no Grant of Probate is required to deal with it. This is also the case in relation to property held as joint tenants.

If you are an Executor or Administrator, it is always worth taking appropriate legal advice. As above, it may be that no Grant of Probate is required on the basis that all assets were jointly held for example, but there may still be inheritance tax implications or more generally perhaps other matters that require consideration and assistance.

Generally, there is no great urgency to obtain a Grant of Probate, with other matters such as registration of the death and funeral arrangements to turn your mind to in the initial weeks following your loved ones passing.

Whenever you are ready, we at Gotelee can be as involved as you wish, should this be for advice to ascertain where you stand, preparing the application for the Grant of Probate only, or indeed dealing with the entire administrative period from start to finish. Contact Katie Toms on 01473 298197 or email [email protected]

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