What is Probate?

Probate is the legal authority concerned with administering a deceased person’s estate (the property, possessions and money that they leave behind). A probate office administers general probate affairs and grants of probate; to get further information on probate contact a probate solicitor, or your local probate office directly.

The authority of probate is given to one or more people, who will take charge of the estate in order to pay any outstanding debts, distribute finances and sell or distribute any other assets.

The people put in charge of the estate will be the deceased’s closest living relatives, unless any other person is named as an executor in the will.

A maximum of four people can be granted the authority of probate, which comes in the form of a legal document known as a grant of representation. One of these must be obtained before anything can be done with a deceased person’s estate.

Obtaining a Grant

Applying for a grant of representation is usually a straightforward process. Application forms can be obtained from any probate office, and must be returned with all necessary documentation – normally the death certificate and will.

Once they receive the application, the probate office will arrange a face to face to interview with all applicants, where they will be required to swear an oath or affirmation that all information given is true, before probate authority is granted.

The only situations where it is not necessary to obtain a grant of representation to administer an estate are:

  • Where a home is jointly owned it will pass automatically to the other joint owner.
  • For a joint bank or building society account, production of a death certificate is usually sufficient for money to be transferred to the surviving account holder.
  • Small amounts of money may be released without a grant, at the bank or building society’s discretion.