Estate Planning / Inheritance Tax

Probate – what is it and why does it matter?

Losing a loved one is likely to be a highly stressful and upsetting experience. As well as the emotional aspects of the loss, there’s usually lots to sort out with your loved one’s estate and the necessary administration. In the midst of this process you may hear some confusing terms, including the mention of probate. Steve Wright, our Estates Director, explains what probate means, when it’s used and why it matters.

Probate is one of those financial planning terms that lots of us have heard of, but few understand the meaning of, and whether it will apply to us.

Most of us, when we die, will leave an estate – anything from some cash savings in the bank to a collection of properties, investments and savings. In its simplest form, probate refers to the process which identifies and values these assets, pays any remaining debts and shares what’s left in line with the Will.

How does probate work?

The Executor of your estate, who you’ll have nominated in your Will, will apply for a Grant of Probate. Probate is usually needed for any estate worth more than £5,000 and is a legal document enabling your Executor to gain access to your funds and deal with your finances so that they can follow your wishes for sharing out your estate. Applying for the Grant will need your Executor to identify the estate’s total value and have the original Will and a death certificate.

For estates valued at less than £5,000 there is generally no need for a Grant of Probate, according to the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). This applies to estates in England and Wales.

How long does probate take?

Once the Grant has been issued, probate typically takes a few months to work through. But it can take longer. Ultimately the time needed depends on the size or complexity of the estate in question; including whether your assets are just in the UK, or overseas too.

Probate is an important process for your Executors to manage, and it might be that you decide that appointing a professional Executor would be a worthwhile step. The Fry Group can help with all aspects of estate planning, including acting as a professional Executor. To discuss your own plans please contact your nearest office.