What is probate?

Most people have heard of probate, but few fully understand exactly what it is.

When someone passes away, and they leave assets which trigger the requirement for probate, the process is carried out by the executors nominated in the Will of the deceased (or the personal representatives in the event of an intestacy; dying without a Will). This typically involves the calculation of the value of the estate, the settling of any debts owed by the deceased, payment of any tax due and distributing the remaining assets in accordance with the Will.

The process for administering an estate will depend on whether an executor chooses to do it themselves or opts to appoint a professional to act on their behalf. The more complex the estate, the more advisable it would be for them to step down and seek professional assistance.

Anyone opting to carry out the process of estate administration themselves needs to appreciate the responsibility that goes along with the role. There is much red tape to negotiate and many obstacles to overcome, not to mention much form-filling. They must also be aware that any errors they make in carrying out their duties may end up costing them financially. For example. if after an estate has been distributed it is discovered that there is any unpaid tax, unsettled debts or even unpaid beneficiaries, the executor(s) are personally liable for the settlement of such outstanding sums which would have to come out of the pocket of the executor(s). The role of an executor is not, therefore, one which should be taken on lightly.

While popular belief is that probate is only necessary where someone dies without having made a Will (intestacy), this is not the case at all. Obtaining “grant of probate” is necessary, Will or no Will, if the deceased’s estate is of a sufficient value to trigger it. One thing is certain, the estate of anyone who dies owning a property will usually make the requirement for probate necessary.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

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