Probate Law

Probate Law in England and Wales.

Have you downloaded the what to do when someone dies?

When a person dies, under probate law, someone has to deal with their financial and property affairs. This is called ‘administering the estate’.  Whether there is a valid Last Will or not, it is possible to dispute the distribution of a deceased persons assets (if you are quick enough) under Probate Law in England and Wales.  There is more information on Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act claims and general information disputing a Will here.

Probate Law: if the person who has died leaves a valid Will.

If the person who has died leaves a valid Will, it should name one or more people to act as the executors. Their job is to administer their estate, unless they turn down the appointment (which is usually unpaid if they are not probate professionals.)

If you are named as an executor of a Will you may need to apply for a grant of probate in order to release the assets so you can pay the debts.

Probate Law UK.

A “grant of probate” is an official document issued by the High Court via the Probate Registries which the executors may need to administer the estate.

Probate Law: if there is no valid Will.

If there is no Will (known as dying “intestate”) the process of probate law becomes more complex. The executors have to apply for a “grant of letters of administration” (equivalent to the “grant of probate above.”)  More on the Rules of Intestacy HERE.

The person to whom letters of administration is granted is known as the administrator under probate law and he / she / they has the legal right to deal with the affairs of the person who has died.  Who will be able to apply to become the administrator is determined by probate law. The administrator will usually be a close relative of the person who has died. There may be more than one person who has an equal right to do this. In some cases, if no other entitled person will act, creditors can take on the role.

Legal terms in Probate Law.

Personal representatives (PRs.)

Are the executors or administrators under probate law. If there is more than one personal representative they must work together to decide matters between them. Disagreements between personal representatives can cause expensive delays.

Grants of representation.

Is a generic term which includes grants of probate (when there is a valid Will) and grants of letters of administration (no Will). Often people just refer to probate even if there is no Will.

When a grant of representation is needed

A grant of representation is not always needed, for example, if the person who died:

  • Has left less than £5000 in total; or
  • Owned everything jointly with someone else.

However, some banks or insurance companies may require a grant before giving you access even to a small amount of money

Usually, a grant of representation will be needed when the person who has died left:

  • More than £5000;
  • Stocks or shares;
  • A house or land; or
  • Certain insurance policies.
  • You can ask us to apply for the grant of representation on your behalf.

Probate Law: How to get a grant

You can also apply for a grant in person at:

  • the Principal Registry (Family Division) at the London Probate Registry
  • a district probate registry in cities and many large towns

If you apply in person, you will normally have to go for an interview at the registry and fill in an application form and a tax form. There is a fee for this.  If you use us, you can avoid the need to attend for an interview, which is a major benefit unless you happen to live close to one of the remaining Probate Registries.  Sub Registries seem to be closing pretty rapidly, sadly, vastly increasing the distances involved.

Responsibilities of personal representatives

Personal representatives must ensure that the estate is administered correctly and they remain personally liable if they do not. If there is a Will, the personal representative must make sure that the wishes of the person who has died, as set out in their Will, are followed. If there is no Will, you must follow the strict rules of intestacy (set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925). Contact us for low cost guidance.

Probate Law: Inheritance tax

Personal representatives are also responsible for finding out if inheritance tax is due as a result of a person’s death. If it is, the personal representative has to make sure that it is paid. Whether inheritance tax needs to be paid can depend on:

  • How much the property and belongings of the dead person were worth when they died;
  • The value of any gifts that they gave before they died, and who they gave these gifts to;
  • The value of certain trusts from which the dead person benefited; or
  • Which people benefit under the Will or under the rules of intestacy (the beneficiaries).

You can find out more by looking at the HM Revenue & Customs website at Information on Inheritance Tax planning see

Probate Law UK