How Can I Find Out if a Probate Has Been Granted?

24 February 2023
Probate is the word used in relation to the legal and financial rights to deal with the estate of someone who has passed away. A deceased person’s estate refers to their possessions, money, and property.
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Nobody is legally entitled to claim anything from the estate, put property on the market or make financial plans unless they have been granted probate. The probate process can be complicated, as it involves legalities, tax, and financial work. This is something that many of us will have to experience at some point in our lives, but often know very little about.

In what can already be an emotional and stressful time, it is often hard to wrap your head around things like the process of probate, so it can become a daunting experience. However, we are here to help share some advice and point you in the right direction. 

Who Can Apply for Probate?

If the person who has passed away left a valid will, the person, or people, named as executor can apply for probate. You will need to send the original will with your probate application - a photocopy will not be valid. If there is more than one executor, you must all agree who will make the application for probate. If you do not want to be an executor, you can give up your right to apply for probate, by filling in a form. You can also appoint someone to apply on your behalf.

If the deceased did not leave a will, the closest living relative can apply for a grant of letters of administration, which works in much the same way as a grant of probate. The closest living relative follows the Rules of Intestacy, and is usually the deceased’s husband, wife, or civil partner. If they were unmarried, it would be their oldest child (over the age of 18) and if there are no children, it would be their parents. 

How to Apply for Probate?

Firstly, you will need to check if probate is actually required. The need for probate doesn’t depend on whether or not there is a valid will, but on the financial situation of the person who has passed away. You might not require probate if the person who died only had a small amount of savings, or they shared property or money with others, as this will automatically be passed to surviving owners. You will need probate if the deceased owned property, stocks and shares, or a large amount of money in their sole name. You will need to contact the financial organisations whom the deceased used, like their mortgage provider or bank. They will be able to tell you if you need probate to access the assets involved, as every company has their own rules and set their own limits. If you are still unsure whether or not probate is required, our expert solicitors can help.

Before applying for probate, you must estimate the value of the estate to determine if you need to pay Inheritance Tax. There is usually no Inheritance Tax to pay if the value of the estate is less than £325,000 or everything above this threshold is left to the spouse, civil partner or a charity. However, you will still need to report the value of the estate, even if no Inheritance Tax is due. Depending on the value of the estate, there may be fees involved when applying for probate. 

You will also need to obtain a Grant of Representation, which is a document from the court that proves your legal authority to deal with the estate. You can then apply for Probate either online or by post, or you can seek support from a solicitor. The Probate Registry has strict rules that need to be adhered to and if the application form for the grant of probate is incorrect, it could have serious consequences for the administration process. Here at John Fowlers Solicitors, we can help guide you through this process and help you to ensure you are meeting all of the requirements. 

How Do I Know if Probate Has Been Granted?

After you have applied for probate, the death certificate will be returned to you, but the will and any additions to it will be kept by the Probate Registry and become a public record. Generally speaking, you will be sent the grant of probate or any other letters of administration within 16 weeks of submitting your application. This may take longer if additional information is required. Essentially it comes down to how complex the estate is. One way to minimise delays is to appoint a probate solicitor to act on your behalf, to help ensure the application is completed correctly.  Once you have received the grant of probate, you can begin dealing with the estate. This will involve administration tasks such as closing down bank accounts, paying off debts, selling assets, and distributing the estate. If there is a will, this will detail how the assets that form the estate should be distributed.

The expert team at John Fowlers can offer all-inclusive advice when it comes to a will or applying for probate; we are here to help make the process as stress-free as possible at this challenging and emotional time. Feel free to get in touch and we can discuss our processes and fees.