Probate – what is it and how does it affect you when a loved one dies?

Thursday 5 July 2018

Buckles Solicitors talk about Probate and the importance of having a will.

When many of us think of the term ‘Reading of the Will’ we imagine a room full of expectant family members hanging on the every word of a solicitor, with dramatic effect or consequences.

The gasps of surprise, shock and sadness following the announcement of who gets (or doesn’t get) what are in fact a scenario generally reserved for the movies these days.

The reality is that probate - a legal document that confirms that a named executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person's assets (property, money and belongings) – is often read in the privacy of a lawyer’s office with only the executor/s present.

As head of estate administration at Buckles Solicitors LLP, Beverley Diamond has over 30 years’ experience in this and the inheritance tax field – and says making a Will in the first instance is crucial to ensure your wishes and intentions are crystal clear in the event of your death.

“Understandably, bereaved families are going through a highly emotional time when a loved one passes away, and with the emphasis on registering the death and organising the funeral, probate is perhaps something that causes confusion and uncertainty.

“Our role, while to advise legally of course, is to try and make this part of the process as easy as possible for the executor once the Will is located; whether it is held by us or another law firm.”

She added: “Contrary to what we often see on TV or film, there is no grand reading of the Will, and its content doesn’t often come as a huge shock. As a law firm we can then do as much or as little as the client wishes; this could be including dealing with the administration of the whole estate or just obtaining probate itself.

“We work hand in hand with other part of the Buckles business to create joined up thinking. If there is a property in Spain or France then we liaise with our international department, and likewise with our contentious probate colleagues if there is a dispute over contents of the Will.”

Beverley added: “Our advice in the first instance would be for everyone to make a legally binding Will, that way you have control over what happens to your estate in the event of your death, and take comfort in knowing that everything has been left in order.”

Legal terms and what they mean:

Executor – a person legally allowed to deal with a deceased person's estate and who is responsible for distributing the estate of the person who has died in accordance with the terms of the deceased's Will.

Grant of Probate – where the deceased has left a Will, this is issued to the executor/s named in the Will.

Grant of Letters of Administration – where the deceased has not left a Will, this is applied for by the next of kin; who are known as the administrators.

Contentious probate - any dispute relating to the administration of a deceased person's estate, whether it involves a dispute over the value of assets, the interpretation of a will, or dealing with difficult executors or feuding beneficiaries.