If a loved one passes away, then you may need to go through the UK probate process. Simply put, ‘probate’ is the title of the legal process that may be necessary in order to deal with a loved one’s estate after they pass away.
If your loved one had a valid Will in place then a UK probate solicitor would help you to apply for a grant of probate. However, in the UK most people do not have a valid Will. According to recent research only 40% of people who pass away have a current, valid Will. If your loved one dies without leaving a Will then instead of applying for a grant of probate your solicitor would apply for letters of administration. There are further types of probate that could be applied for, but this would depend on the circumstances surrounding the Will, or lack of a Will.
It won’t be until probate is granted that assets can be released to those who are set to inherit.
It depends on the total value of the estate whether or not probate will be necessary. In addition, if assets were held by only one person or if they were held jointly with a partner could also affect whether or not probate is necessary.
Probate may for example not be necessary if someone is considered to have only a ‘small estate. This means that the estate is worth around £15,000 or less, when all of their assets have been added up. This means most homeowners would likely require probate.
Where a Will is in place
The executor of the Will is in charge of carrying out the probate process if necessary, where there was a Will in place. The executor is responsible for gathering all of the assets, paying outstanding debts and bills and then distributing the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries as outlined in the Will. They must also make sure all UK inheritance tax is paid and that the right inheritance tax forms have been completed. Inheritance tax is paid before the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.
Most people will struggle with this process, as it can become very complex very quickly, especially where a larger estate is involved. This is where probate solicitors come in. An expert probate solicitor can help the executor in their duties of distributing the estate and will ensure all processes are handled correctly.
The probate process is significantly easier when there is a Will in place. Having a Will can further ensure that all those you care about inherit exactly what you wish them to inherit. Without a Will this is left up to the law. Under the law, if someone dies intestate – dies without leaving a Will – assets need to be distrusted according to set (rigid) rules, which may not be what you would have wanted.
For example, unmarried partners won’t inherit, even where they are living together or even co-own a house together. Children may not inherit what you want to inherit, and when no direct relatives are alive, your entire estate may be given to the Crown.
Will writing solicitors won’t cost much money and save you time. Everyone is recommended to ensure they have a valid Will in place at all times.