Probate is frequently referred to as the document required to deal with a deceased person’s assets or estate. However the document required is different depending upon whether the deceased person left a valid Will (testate) or not (intestate). It also depends on whether named Executors are applying for the document or whether others are applying.

Where a person is testate and some or all of the named Executors are applying the document required is a Grant of Probate. Where there is a Will but none of the named Executors is applying the document is a Grant of Letters of Administration (with Will annexed). On intestacy the document is simply a Grant of Letters of Administration. There are other special Grants for certain special situations but together they are all termed Grants of Representation.

The Grant of Representation is a legal document conferring legal title to a deceased person’s assets. However in cases where the value of the individual or total assets is small it is often possible for them to be realized without the need for a Grant of Representation. This generally requires completion of a form or forms and providing certain documentary evidence of death and entitlement.

Where a Grant of Representation is required a personal application may be made by the person(s) dealing with the estate or by solicitors acting for them. In both cases it is necessary to apply to the Principal Probate Registry or one of the District Probate Registries and to complete the necessary forms to advise HMRC of the full extent of the deceased person’s estate. If Inheritance Tax (IHT) is payable this must be paid before a Grant of Representation can be obtained although it may be possible to defer payment of a part of the liability if it relates to real property (land and buildings).

Executors and Administrators are personally liable for their acts and must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the estate. However they can employ professionals to assist them in their duties. In addition they cannot be paid for so acting unless specifically authorized by the Will or by the beneficiaries although they are entitled to be reimbursed for any expenses properly incurred.

Once all the assets (and liabilities) have been dealt with the beneficiaries are entitled to receive a full accounting and, in addition, it may be necessary to provide appropriate tax returns to HMRC for the administration period.