What is Probate and is it Always Required?

The Probate Process Explained

It’s incredibly sad when a loved one dies, especially when you still have to organise their estate and personal affairs. Emotions can run very high during this period but knowing the legal processes and your rights will help everything to run smoothly. Probate is one of the many things you’ll need to get your head around, and you may want to contact a Kent accountant for probate services for help. But what exactly does probate entail and is it always required?

What is Probate?

First and foremost, let’s unravel what probate actually is. It might sound scary but it’s actually just the legal term for handling a decedent’s estate including their money, assets and possessions. Of course, not everyone has the right to do this. You wouldn’t want a stranger meddling with your personal affairs, after all. So, it’s likely a Grant of Probate will be needed. This should be issued swiftly if you’re the named executor on a Will. If there is no Will, a Grant of Letters of Administration will be issued. This is an official court document that proves you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate, allowing you to do necessary tasks such as close accounts, sell property and distribute assets. As the executor with a legal right to organise the estate, you can still seek specialist help from the likes of Kent tax advisors.

Is Probate Always Needed?

The short answer to this is no, probate is not always needed. But the rules aren’t always clear, and you may have to do a bit of research. For example, some financial institutions will release funds less than £5,000 without the need for probate. This is because the estate is considered ‘small.’ Many institutions have even extended this threshold to £50,000. But not all banks have the same rules, and some may be reluctant to release any funds without probate. Probate rules can be something of a minefield, so don’t be afraid to seek advice should you need it.

Probate and Property – What are the Rules?

Probate isn’t always needed to sell a property. For example, probate is not required to transfer a property to a surviving owner so long as you’re listed as ‘joint tenants.’ However, things change considerably if you own a property as ‘tenants in common.’ In this scenario, if the other tenant dies, their share will not automatically be passed to you. It will, instead, pass to whoever is legally entitled to inherit under their Will, or by intestacy rules.

So, when buying a property, it’s really important to think about ownership details in order to protect your loved ones. Financial planning will make it much easier for the executor to manage your affairs when you pass away and will avoid any potential complications.

As a note, probate will always be required to sell a property owned in the deceased’s sole name. This is because there’s no-one legally documented for the property to automatically pass to and therefore any wishes noted in the Will should be acknowledged.

Probate issues can be complicated. So, don’t hesitate to reach out for specialist help and advice.

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