Coping with your Loss - Autumn/Winter 2019

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COPING WITH YOUR LOSS

A ter a death: the complications of obtaining Probate

P robate can o en involve a combination of complicated legal, tax and financial work which may have to be handled by solicitors.

It is the legal and nancial process involved in dealing with the property, money and possessions of a person who has died. If the deceased had a valid Will, they may have named someone to deal with their assets. This person is the executor and they will have the responsibility of administering the estate. If there is no Will, then the rules of intestacy apply. When there is a will If you are named as an executor, you may need to obtain a Grant of Representation depending upon the value of the deceased’s estate. This is the legal document issued by the Probate Registry which grants you the right to administer the estate. The executor uses the grant to show that they have the right to access the deceased’s bank accounts and all their funds, manage the nances and collect and distribute the deceased’s assets, as per the instructions in the Will.

civil partner or spouse if you present them with the death certi cate. However, if they had any sole accounts, you will most likely need the Grant of Representation. You can obtain the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration by contacting your local Probate Registry. You can do this by lling out and returning Probate take between three and ve weeks. However, if there are other complications — if there is inheritance tax to pay, or you make a mistake in lling out a form, for instance — obtaining the Grant could take a lot longer. You will also need to contact HMRC to pay any inheritance tax due on the estate. What to do if there is no Will A blood relative will need to become an administrator of the estate if there is no Will, as without one, the deceased’s estate will become intestate, meaning that it must be distributed according to the strict rules of intestacy. If you are not sure what to do, contact a solicitor for advice. Application form PA1. Ideally, this process will

What happens once I have the Grant of Representation?

Obtaining the Grant of Representation To execute a Will, you will usually need to obtain the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. The Grant of Representation refers to the grant that you must obtain to carry out probate. The kind of grant that you need will depend on your circumstances. The Grant of Representation will make it possible for you to access all of the deceased’s assets, such as their bank and building society accounts. Doing so without the Grant of Representation would be very dif cult, if not impossible. However, the Grant of Representation may not be needed if: The deceased did not have much money in their accounts – a bank or building society may be willing to release the funds without a grant Their properties, bank or building society accounts and insurance policies were joint- owned by a surviving spouse or civil partner. In the event of joint-owned accounts, the bank or building society may be willing to transfer sole ownership to the surviving

Once you have the grant, the last task is administering all of the deceased’s assets. This means gathering all the assets that you have identi ed and distributing them as directed in the will. Once probate has been granted, most institutions will release all the funds without delay. You may need to send them certi ed copies of the grant, which is why it’s best to ask for copies from the Probate Registry when they issue the grant. This will usually incur a small fee. Looking at probate in more detail if the deceased left a Will, they may have speci ed the designated executor or executors – these people are expected to “execute” the Will, which means they will share out the estate as speci ed and deal with any related complications, as well as carry out any other nal wishes speci ed in the Will. However, you are not legally required to act as executor, even if you are the only executor named in the Will. If there is no executor named, or there is no Will, someone must become the administrator of the estate – this may be someone who would bene t from the Will, or a blood relative if no Will exists. The administrator largely performs the same tasks that an executor would, although they often have no Will to act upon. Do they have a Will? It is estimated that only 30% of people have a Will, so it is possible that the deceased died without one, leaving them what is known as intestate. However, they may well have created one without your knowledge. You should check their paperwork to see if they have a copy of this anywhere. If there is no Will to be found among their personal belongings, they may have kept a copy with their solicitor, or their bank. Alternatively, they may have left a copy with a dedicated Will storage service, or with the Principal Registry of the Family Division in London. In order to retrieve the Will from the Principal Registry, you will need to provide proof of death (such as the death certi cate), and you will most likely need proof that you are a named executor. You should also provide a certi cate of deposit for the Will, but if you are unable to nd this, you will need to write to the Record Keeper at the Principal Registry. A non-executor can apply to withdraw the Will if no executor is named, but you would need permission from a District Judge before they will let you have the Will. Whether there is a Will or not will affect what kind of Grant of Representation you will need in order to continue the probate process.

When there is no Will When there is no will, the deceased is said to have died intestate. There are rules that set out which family members will bene t from an intestate estate and these are known as the intestacy rules. If the deceased didn’t have a Will, then it will usually be up to the spouse or one of the family members who are due to bene t under the intestacy rules to administer the estate. They will still have to apply for a Grant of Representation, but the grant given is called a Grant of Letters of Administration.

When do I need a Grant of Representation? Probate is usually required when: • The person who

has died owned a property or land; and/or

• The deceased owned a bank account or

investment for which the bank or other financial institution requires a Grant. This

is normal if the amount in the

account is over the specific threshold

set by that institution. • Banks and other

How long does probate take? This will depend on how complex the estate is – if there are complicated assets, such as multiple properties, shares, and accounts, it is likely to take longer than if they had owned a single bank account and very few other assets. On average, probate takes between six to nine months to complete and can take up to eighty working hours. However, other complications can cause the process to take considerably longer, such as if the Will is contested, or the deceased did not keep clear records of all their assets. Some cases have taken several years to nalise.

financial institutions set their own limits above which probate will be required, so it’s worth checking with the individual

organisation as to whether they need a Grant of Representation.

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