A grant of probate is a document that confirms that legal authority has been given to an executor of the deceased’s will. This, in turn, allows the executor to deal with the deceased’s estate and assets as per the wishes stated in the will.
An executor of the will may obtain a grant of probate. Should several executors be named in the will, the executor who is taking out the grant must inform all other executors. The purpose of this is that another of the executors may wish to object, or there may be a dispute between those entitled to take out the grant of probate as to who should apply.
There may be occasions where the deceased has not made a will. In these circumstances, the person who is entitled to act as personal representative of the estate, known as an administrator, will follow the order of priority as set out in the Intestacy Rules. The personal representative will be entitled to take out a grant of representation, known as Letters of Administration.
Is there a time limit on applying for a grant of probate and administering the estate?
There is no time limit in which a grant of probate nor is there a time limit on when the assets must be distributed. However, certain processes have deadlines; for example, if there is any inheritance tax to be paid, this must be paid within six months from the date of the deceased’s death; otherwise, penalties will start to be incurred.
In most cases, completing the estate administration process could take 9-12 months. However, this may be longer depending on the complexity of the deceased’s estate and whether any disputes arise. It is worth bearing in mind that if, as an executor or administrator, you do not act in a timely fashion, court proceedings could be commenced requiring you to progress the application and estate administration process.
Different ways of finding out if probate has been granted?
The government maintains a public record of information about issued grants of probate. You can access that via a dedicated website, whereby you can enter information about the deceased person, which will allow you to search for any issued grants of representation. This service also allows you, for a small charge, to order a copy of the grant and will (where applicable).
Alternatively, you can complete a form known as ‘PA1S’, to search for a probate record by post.
When searching by post, you can also request copy documents, for which a fee will be payable. However, you should bear in mind that if the individual has passed away within the last six months, there is a possibility that probate will not have been issued in that short time period. If this is the case, you can enter what is known as a ‘standing search’, and by doing so, the probate registry will send you a copy of the probate record once it has been granted. The probate registry will only send you a copy of the grant of probate if it has been issued within six months after you send the PA1S form, and accordingly, the standing search may need to be periodically renewed.