What is Probate?

What is Probate - Discussing with Client Couple - Nash & Co Solicitors

Probate specialists in Plymouth

If you’re wondering “What is probate?”, then you’re not alone. This is one of the most common questions we receive from our clients. People are often left feeling overwhelmed by addressing financial affairs and carrying out estate administration duties following the death of a loved one.

Here at Nash & Co Solicitors, our team of Probate Solicitors are on hand to help you through this process. We’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure the probate process is as clear as possible.

What Does a Probate Lawyer Do?

Simply put, a Probate Solicitor is there to help their clients to work through the legal rules that apply to dividing an estate, following the death of the estate owner.

When a person dies, everything they own becomes known as their estate. This includes cars, property, money and other valuable items, such as jewellery. If someone has written a Will, this means their estate can be divided in accordance with their wishes. It can then be distributed amongst the family, friends or charities that they held dear.

If someone’s passed away without a will, this means the estate will be divided in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This is a set of legal rules that determine who receives a person’s estate. This can result in the estate being divided in a way the deceased would not have wanted. As a result, key persons may miss out. Also, persons who may not have been included had a will been in place could receive instead. In this situation, the estate administrator would need to apply for Letters of Administration before they can begin to deal with the estate.

To ensure these legal processes are carried out effectively and correctly, many people decide to get a probate lawyer or solicitor on board to help. Our team of experienced and skilled probate specialists are here to help you through the probate process. We’ll do this either by obtaining a Grant of Probate on your behalf or by undertaking in the collecting and distributing of the estate.

What is a Grant of Probate?

What is Probate - Talking to a Client - Nash & Co Solicitors
After “What is probate?”, the questions we’re asked most frequently are all about understanding what a Grant of Probate is.

A Grant of Probate is a legal document confirming that the Executor has the authority to administer the estate of a person who died and has left a will. If you’re a named Executor in a will, it is your responsibility to establish whether a Grant of Probate is required.

It’s difficult to give an estimated time frame of how long it’ll take to obtain the Grant of Probate. Generally, if there are no complications then this can generally be achieved within a four to five-week period. Collecting in the assets is the next step. This can take around two to eight weeks, depending on the types of assets in the estate. Once this process has been completed, we can then begin to distribute the assets for you. The timeframe for asset distribution is dependent on several factors. Factors include whether there are any children under 18 involved and the view that the Executors or Administrators take on distributing the estate, before the end of the 10 month claim period.

What happens if the deceased person has debts?

In cases where the person who has died owes money (i.e. a mortgage, credit card or finance agreement), then the funds to clear these debts will come out of the estate. It’s important to check whether the person had any kind of insurance policy in place that would pay their debts upon their death. This includes policies such as payment protection or life insurance.

However, if there is not enough money in the estate to clear the debts, then the deceased’s creditors cannot recover the outstanding amount from anyone else. Occasionally, the debt may be a joint one. This could be in the form of a joint bank account, joint mortgage or joint credit agreement. In these circumstances, creditors can recover the debt from the surviving person.

Conveyancing Solicitors - Row of Houses - Nash & Co Solicitors

The deceased person’s property has a mortgage, what happens next?

If the person’s will instructs that the property is to be inherited by someone and there’s still a mortgage on it, the mortgage company will either ask the person who has inherited the property to take over the mortgage or request that the mortgage is paid off with immediate effect. There may be a life insurance policy, an endowment policy or a mortgage protection policy. This will pay off the outstanding balance if the person with the mortgage dies.

If you intend to sell the property, the remaining mortgage balance will be paid from the proceeds of the sale.

The deceased person has a joint bank account, what does this mean for the surviving partner?

If a couple has a joint bank or building society account and one dies, the money will pass on to the surviving partner without the need for probate or letters of administration. The bank may require a death certificate in order to pass the money onto the other partner.

However, if there are assets that are not jointly owned, probate or letters of administrations may still be required.

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Contact us

If you’re still pondering “What is probate?”, then please get in touch with us. Our team of experienced, highly qualified and skilled probate solicitors are here to help you. Please call us on 01752 827076 or email us through our contact form to request a call back.