It is always a difficult time when a loved one passes away. There are many things you will need to deal with, including planning the funeral of course, and the legal process and possibly having to obtain probate to administer that person’s estate.
Probate is an all too misunderstood process. Here are a few of the most common questions we get asked about probate.
What is probate?
In a nutshell, it is the process of applying to Court (your local Probate Registry) for a person to be appointed who has the legal power to administer the estate of the deceased person. Probate has various steps from gaining control to administer the estate, paying any inheritance tax due and distributing assets according to the will, or the rules of intestacy if there isn’t a will.
Do you need probate for a small estate?
Probate may not always be required. For small estates (normally worth under £15,000), and assets that are held in joint names, you may not need to go through probate. In these circumstances, any joint bank accounts will automatically pass to the surviving spouse and any account in a sole name can usually be closed by completing closure forms provided by the bank.
How long does it take to obtain probate?
This very much depends upon the size of the estate but, in most straightforward cases, probate can often be obtained within a few weeks. The Probate Registry issues the Grant of Probate within around 2 weeks of applying. If the estate is complex or there are other factors involved such as any property that needs to be sold, the timescales can take longer. If you’re unsure about this, it’s always best to speak to an experienced probate solicitor who can help advise on your specific circumstances.
Do I need to use a solicitor for probate?
There isn’t a legal requirement to use a solicitor and it really comes down to personal choice, but many people may choose to do so because paying for a professional service ensures the job gets done properly so you don’t need to worry about it. Solicitors have the expertise and experience to avoid mistakes and make sure everything is accounted for. We’ve seen it all too often where people try and do things themselves and it ends up being a false economy.
Does it cost a lot to use a probate solicitor?
In most cases, not as much as you might think. This is a competitive area of the law and most Solicitors (including ourselves), now offer an Express fixed price probate service.
On a final note, I also advise you to be cautious of paying thousands of pounds in legal fees without shopping around first. I have recently spoken to clients who have been “referred” by their bank to their own “recommended” Solicitors. The fees they have been charged have been significantly above the average fee which a local Solicitor would charge. As with any large purchase, always do your own research on prices before deciding which professional you wish to instruct.