What is Probate?

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Probate” is an often mis-used term. It is often used to describe the process of administering an estate, from start to finish. In fact, a “Grant of Probate” is a document produced by the Court that proves the Executor has the legal authority to deal with the estate.

There are many kinds of Grants that can be obtained when dealing with an estate. The most common is a Grant of Probate, which is obtained when the deceased left a Will appointing an Executor (the person charged with dealing with the estate) and that Executor takes the role and applies for the Grant.

But what happens when there is no Will? The closest relative of the deceased applies to be appointed as the Administrator of the estate. In this case, the Grant is called a “Grant of Letters of Administration”. The authority of the Administrator runs from the Grant, whereas the authority of an Executor runs from the Will. This means that an Executor is able to deal with the administration of the estate far more quickly than an Administrator – just one of the many good reasons why everyone should make a Will.

How to apply for a Grant.

In all cases, it is necessary to consider the Inheritance Tax that may fall due as a result of the deceased’s passing. A form will need to completed, containing all the relevant figures, which is either a short form or the longer IHT 400 and schedules, depending on the value of the estate.

Historically, the Executor or Administrator (or the Personal Representative) would need to swear an Oath. This document sets out the facts about the deceased; such as date of birth, date of death, and the value of the estate. Swearing the document meant that the Personal Representative had to meet an independent solicitor, and swear on the Bible, or formally affirm, that the contents of the document were true. From 27th November 2018, it became no longer a requirement for an Oath to be sworn or affirmed. Now it is necessary only to provide a Statement of Truth, which sets out the same facts as the Oath.

A Statement of Truth does not need to be sworn before an independent solicitor, but rather is simply signed by the Personal Representative. By signing the document, he/she is verifying that the facts contained within the Statement are true. If the “facts” are not true, and the Personal Representative did not hold an honest belief that they were true at the time of signing the document, then this is known as contempt of court, for which there are severe penalties.

It is important, therefore, that all Personal Representatives, whether Executors or Administrators, are fully appraised of the process of the administration, and understand the facts set out in the Statement of Truth. It is their responsibility to ensure that the document is factual.

At Bennett Griffin LLP, we have a team of experienced professionals who are more than happy to help any Personal Representative through the administration process. We can help as much or as little as is needed throughout this difficult time, and are here to answer any questions that may arise.

Please call Bennett Griffin on 01903 229999 and ask for the Estate Administration Team or email us on info@bennett-griffin.co.uk.

We are here, with you, in times of bereavement.