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Frequently Asked Questions: Bereavement and Probate

What is Probate? 

Probate is a general term often used to refer to the various tasks involved in dealing with someone’s estate. A Grant of Probate is the official document which gives the Executors of an estate the power to deal with the Deceased’s assets. If the Deceased died without a will, the official document is called ‘Letters of Administration’. 

Who can apply for the Grant of Probate? 

The people entitled to apply for the Grant of Probate are either the Executors named in the Will or the next of kin following the Rules of Intestacy if there is no Will. Their names will appear on the Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration if there is no Will) and they will be legally responsible, and liable, for the administration of the deceased’s estate. Executors do not have to act, but must take specific steps to ensure they have correctly renounced their role. 

What is the role of the Executor? 

An Executor is responsible for dealing with a deceased’s estate in accordance with the Will, and in accordance with law. If the deceased did not have a Will, those responsible for dealing with the estate are referred to as Administrators. There are many responsibilities placed on Executors and Administrators, such as the payment of tax, sale and distribution of assets and payment of liabilities. Executors or Administrators can be personally financially liable if they do not carry out this duty correctly, even if they were acting in good faith. It is an important role and should be taken seriously. 

How long will it take? 

Dealing with the administration of an estate can be a lengthy exercise, particularly if there is property to be sold or many assets to deal with. Obtaining the Grant of Probate will usually take around 2-3 months in straightforward cases, but will take longer if there are assets that need to be valued. Once the Grant is obtained the assets can then be dealt with, which will again depend on what these assets are. We can advise as to how long we consider matters will take once we know what assets are in the estate. 

How much will it cost? 

This will of course depend on the size and complexity of the estate. We always agree costs before starting any work and can often work on a fixed fee basis so you are entirely clear on how much the work will cost. Where we cannot work on a fixed fee basis we will give a cost estimate before starting any work. As a general rule, costs are usually around 1-3% of the gross value of an estate. Straight forward estates will usually be closer to 1%, with more complex or high value estates around 3%. 

Do I need a Solicitor? 

Dealing with a deceased estate can seem straightforward and in some simple cases Executors feel able to deal with an estate without the involvement of a Solicitor. The Probate Registry can assist with this and with enough research and time Executors may be able to deal with the estate themselves. However, the burden of responsibility on Executors is very high and it can be a very time consuming and stressful role, particularly if beneficiaries are keen to get their inheritance. Advice from a solicitor can ensure that matters are not only dealt with efficiently but also correctly. We act for the Executors, not the beneficiaries, and we can help advise in relation to protection against personal liability and tax penalties, how to avoid potential problems with beneficiaries and also in relation to ensuring all necessary taxes are paid on time.

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