Probate and estate administration
Why is a Grant of Representation needed?
When someone dies they may leave little or no money and have no property of their own. When this happens, usually their personal belongings, called chattels, are also not very valuable in money terms even if they have great emotional significance for family and friends. In this situation the personal representative is usually able to withdraw any money from banks after completing the banks' own forms and deal with any other administration needed fairly simply.
It can still take quite some time to notify everyone that needs to be made aware, pay any outstanding debts of the deceased, sort personal possessions and clear a rented property, so this is a significant responsibility.
However when an estate is more valuable, banks and other financial organisations such as pension providers and insurance companies need more formal evidence that the person to whom they are releasing money, is the person entitled to receive it. This often also applies to a property, especially if it is being transferred from one generation to another or it is to be sold. This is when the organisations will ask to see a grant before releasing the money.
What is involved if I have to obtain a grant to deal with the estate?
Even a fairly simple estate can take between 6-9 months to do everything because of the number of different steps involved. It is not uncommon for the whole process to take a year or more, especially if a property has to be sold.
The first step is to obtain the will if one has been written and find out who has been named as executor(s). The will may also contain instructions about the funeral.
Following that the personal representative has to gather information about the estate, in particular what the values of all assets (anything with a positive value) were at the date of death and also exactly what is owed in terms of debts. Contacting all the asset holders helps to understand whether a grant of representation will be needed to be able to administer the estate. This is something we can help with as we regularly call banks and other organisations to find how much has to be held with them to cause them to ask for a grant. This step involves correspondence with every bank, building society, utility provider (e.g. gas, electric, telephone, internet) amongst others.
Forms have to be completed to apply for the grant and also for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with regard to inheritance tax. A form for them has to be completed even if no tax is due. If tax is owed it has to be paid before a grant can be issued (or in part if the tax relates mainly to a property). The forms need to be submitted and the Probate Registry offers an appointment to swear an oath that the information in the forms is true - or the oath can be sworn in front of a commissioner for oaths.
Co-op Legal Services, affiliated with Bereavement Advice Centre provides an enormous amount of information on what probate is and what is involved.