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What is probate?

The death of a loved one can be extremely difficult and managing their affairs can be an added stress, at Stephensons we can help.

At Stephensons, we aim to support you through all of life’s ups and down, providing you with expert legal advice that helps you to understand what is needed of you. After someone in your life dies, you may be expected to look after their affairs, something which can be hard when you are also dealing with grief.

We know that this kind of responsibility can be unfamiliar and confusing, which is why we have pulled together a guide to help break down the legal jargon and legislation surrounding probate. Read on below to see the various steps involved and how our experienced probate solicitors can give you support and advice.  


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What does probate mean?  

When a person dies, probate is the process by which their estate is managed. This includes how their money, assets, debts, and possessions are distributed, as well as who will pay and receive what as part of their inheritance. The process of probate only ends when all inheritance has been paid to the beneficiaries, as well as the outstanding debts and taxes having been paid.

What is probate of a Will?

If a person has left a Will, probate of a Will is the process of proving that Will allowing the executors of that Will to carry out the wishes set out.  An executor should be named, and if this role is assigned to you then it is your responsibility to collect in the assets of the person and distribute these according to their wishes having paid out any outstanding tax, debts and liabilities. In this case, you will have to apply for probate and could benefit from the help of a solicitor.

What is a grant of probate?

If you are named as the executor of a deceased person’s estate, then you have to be granted permission to begin the process of organising their affairs by the Probate Registry (the court). This is known as a grant of probate and in order to receive it you must submit the correct legal documents and the Will to show that you are the appointed executor. 

How does the probate process work?

There are many different factors that can affect the process of probate, which is why it is not necessarily the same for every estate. The bequests that the deceased person has left in the Will, as well as assets and debts, the number of beneficiaries, and many other elements can mean the process takes longer or requires more steps. 

However, there are five key steps that nearly every probate process involves, these are:

  1. Conducting a full assessment of the deceased person’s estate, looking at their assets, debts, and other finances
  2. Putting in an application for the grant of probate, so that you have the court’s authority
  3. Paying all outstanding taxes through an inheritance tax return
  4. When you’ve been granted probate you will have permission to administer the estate of the deceased
  5. Any debts of the deceased should be paid, so that you can focus on the assets and moving to distribute the remaining estate

Who can apply for probate?

The only person who can apply for probate is the individual who has been named the executor of the Will, so that they can begin to administer the estate. However, this process can be complicated and difficult, especially if you have just had a loved one pass away, which is why our probate team at Stephensons can assist with the application process. 

In some cases, a person may die without having written a Will or appointing an executor, which means their estate is considered intestate. It is important that you have a clear understanding of the intestacy rules so that you are aware whether you can apply for a grant of letters of administration. Our probate solicitors can help you to be sure whether you are eligible, simply contact us today to find out.

Can you still apply for probate without a Will?

As mentioned, sometimes a loved one may die unexpectedly or without the necessary plans in place for after their death. This can then mean that they have no Will, and subsequently no executor. If this happens, then specific individuals will have the right to apply to administer the estate even without a Will.

This is called a grant of letters of administration, something which will allow you to organise the estate and its assets, as well as distribute any inheritance to the relevant beneficiaries according to the rules of intestacy.

Can a Will be challenged?

If there is reason to believe that the Will of the deceased person is invalid or inaccurately depicts the wishes of the testator (the person making the Will) regarding their estate, then you or someone else may want to challenge the Will.

There are a number of reasons that this may be the case, including:

  • The testator was not of sound mind when writing the Will
  • The testator was under undue influence, meaning it did not express purely their own interests
  • The document was forged, making it invalid
  • The Will does not provide for you or another individual who was financially dependent on the testator’s estate

So, if you need to challenge a Will, or if the Will is being challenged and you are the executor, our probate team may be able to help provide you with any support or advice you might need.

What is a beneficiary of a Will and what rights do they have?

A beneficiary is someone who will receive some form of inheritance as stipulated in the deceased person’s Will. Legally, they are eligible for specific beneficiary rights, such as:

  • You have a legal right over your inheritance, but yours and yours alone
  • A right to information, being kept up to date by the executor over changes and progress of administration
  • The executor must keep a detailed account of any administrative steps, in case any beneficiaries ask to view data regarding accounts and the estate

Here at Stephensons, we provide legal help for both executors and beneficiaries, whether you feel the executor is not carrying out the administration of the estate or the beneficiaries are overstepping their rights.

Can a Will be changed after your loved one has passed away?

Yes, however the Will must be valid and you must prepare a deed of variation, which will allow those who are beneficiaries to agree to make changes to their entitlement. You may do this because you want your inheritance to go to someone else, set up a trust, or reduce any tax on inheritance. For tax planning purposes the deed of variation must be prepared within two years of the date of death of the deceased.   

At Stephensons, we can provide you with our expert knowledge and assistance in applying for a deed of variation, if you wish to make changes to a Will after the death of a loved one.

How long does probate take?

Depending on the individual circumstances of the person’s death, any active disputes, and the size and scale of the estate, the probate process can vary in terms of how long it takes. For most estates, it will take around a year, but it can be both longer and shorter than this based on different factors.

If the probate process is taking much longer than you expected, then our probate solicitors can help you to manage any disputes or other reasons why you may be having trouble administering the estate. 

What happens after probate is granted?

Once the Grant of Probate has been issued, the process of administrating the deceased person’s estate can now proceed. This usually involves the following:

  • Cashing in funds: Some banks, pensions and insurance policies will ask for a grant of probate before they can pay the funds to the estate of the deceased. This is so they know they are paying out to the authorised person i.e. the executor.
  • Paying debts and taxes: The executor named in the Will, needs to settle the deceased person’s debts. For example, loans, outstanding bills or taxes. In order to cover these obligations, the executor may need to sell some of the deceased person’s assets.
  • Distribution to beneficiaries: The executor is responsible to distribute the assets in accordance with the Will or the laws of intestacy if there is no Will.
  • Final accounting: The executor is usually required to keep an accurate record of assets and liabilities and prepare a final accounting of all financial transactions related to the estate.
  • Closing the estate: Once all debts, expenses and taxes have been paid, and assets have been distributed, the estate can be closed, and the executor’s responsibility comes to an end.

How much does probate cost?

At Stephensons, the cost of our probate services can vary depending on what you require of us and how many hours will need to be spent on your case. When you contact us regarding your situation, we can assess how much work will be needed and then estimate how much we think it will cost.

Visit our fixed prices page to see roughly how much we charge for different types of work, so that you can see if our probate team at Stephensons are right for you.

To learn more about how our specialist probate solicitors can help you with estate administration and other related issues, call us on 0161 696 6238

Further information

Please note that our fixed or estimated fees for Wills and Probate work are based upon a matter having standard features. They give an indication of the likely range of prices in most instances. However if your matter has non-standard features such as complex property, family relationships, dispositions or risks, then we may not be able to assist you for the fees shown on our website. In that instance we may give you an alternative fee quote based on hourly rates or  further fixed or estimated fees.

The advice provided to non-face to face clients will be through electronic or written communication only e.g. by telephone and email. Stephensons Solicitors LLP assumes no responsibility for, and shall not be liable for, (a) verification of mental capacity or testamentary capacity (b) verification of any undue influence or duress involved (c) the execution of any documents.

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