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Understanding probate: Is it really that complicated?

man signing document

When a person dies, someone has to deal with his or her estate, which includes any money, property and possessions left behind. Probate is the authority given by the court to the people that will deal with the deceased’s affairs, also known as administering the estate. You get more control over who is looking into your assets and property by having a will because it allows you to appoint someone who you trusts with this responsibility.

Why do I need probate?

You need probate to deal with the legal proceedings and financial affairs of those who are deceased. If the estate is worth over £5,000 or includes assets other than money, then probate will more than likely be needed.

In cases where there’s a will, probate will be given in the form of a legal document which is called the Grant of Probate, allowing you to deal with your loved one’s estate as instructed by their will. If there is no will, you need a legal document to administer the estate, known as Grant of Letters of Administration.

Probate is granted by those who have passed away but if no-one is named explicitly in the will of the chosen person is unwilling or unable to act, anyone named on the will and above the age of 18, can apply.

Probate costs

One of the first questions you’ll no doubt have is, how much does probate cost? The total value of everything owned by the deceased is known as the ‘net estate’ and is what affects the cost of probate. If the net estate is worth more than £5,000, you’ll be charged £215 in probate fees but, if it’s less, you won’t be charged at all. If you need to apply for a second grant on the same estate, you’ll be charged £20 and if there’s no will you’ll need to apply for a letter of administration, but it will not affect the cost of probate.

How to apply for probate

You can either apply for probate yourself or through a probate specialist or solicitor.

You can do it yourself if you’re an executor or if there’s no will and the law has appointed you as the chosen administrator. The process of applying for probate involves swearing an oath that you’ll administer the estate following the law and to attend the probate registry in person.

Administering an estate is hard work, it takes a lot of time and requires your full attention as you leave yourself open to legal liabilities from any mistakes you make. Many people choose to hire a solicitor to deal with probate to avoid any legal issues.

What is involved with administering?

An estate consists of money, debts, property and personal possessions making the main responsibilities of administering an estate as followed:

  • Paying for the funeral
  • Collecting the assets
  • Paying off bills and/or debts
  • Recovering payments
  • Transferring property
  • Preparing the estate account
  • Distributing the money, property and possessions.

Choosing someone to deal with your estate (an executor) is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. The legal complexities can be hard work so it’s important to choose someone trustworthy and reliable.

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