In the difficult and upsetting period following the loss of a loved one, there will often be many practical concerns over the right steps to take in handling the final affairs of the deceased’s estate.

By Mark Willey, Terence Willey & Co
Firstly, those taking such responsibility will have to deal with the formalities of registering the death with the local Registrar. There is a legal requirement to register as soon as possible, but usually this will be done within five days, unless the death has been reported to the Coroner.

Once the funeral arrangements are in hand, the Executors will then often seek advice on what needs to be done to administer and properly finalise the estate.

Every estate is different, as are the attitudes and skill sets of the executors in their ability to manage the administration. 

I would advise anybody who finds themselves tasked with administering an estate, no matter how simple it may seem on the face of it, to consider a preliminary meeting with a professional advisor who can at least explain the process so that more informed decisions can then be made about how the estate will be administered.

In the majority of cases, the initial questions asked are ‘What is probate?’ And also ‘Do I even need it?’

“Probate is the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) after they die.”

Probate is the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) after they die. The process of probate is the Court formally proving the Will which, once granted, gives the legal authority to appointed executors to handle the assets of the estate.

The .Gov website states that you should not make any financial plans or put property on the market until you have got probate, which is why seeking legal advice at an early stage to discuss this should avoid an executor doing something they shouldn’t, which is often a cause for concern.

Whether probate to a Will is required or not will depend on particular circumstances. By way of example, the deceased might have owned no property, and  only had a few thousand in the bank which covered the cost of the funeral, but had the maximum holding of National Savings & Investments (“NS&I”) Premium Bonds (£50,000).  In such a case, a grant would be required as NS&I will not release a holding of that size until they have had sight of the grant of probate. NS&I will let an executor know if they need a grant of probate.  They may ask for a grant of probate if the customer’s total NS&I savings are £5,000 or more, and the Director of Savings also reserves the right to request a Grant of Representation/probate for savings of any value.

There are cases where probate may not be required, such as when the deceased’s estate may be modest in respect of assets held in the sole name, and all other assets might have been held jointly with the surviving husband/wife or civil partner and pass to the surviving joint owner automatically by survivorship.

Regardless of the circumstances though, it is generally always best to ask the question and discuss the need for probate, and if necessary, seek additional advice and assistance on all aspects of the administration of any estate.