A grant of probate is a legal document which confirms that the person appointed to administer the estate of a deceased person, known as the ‘executor’, has the authority to distribute their property, money and belongings, collectively known as their ‘assets’, as set out in their will. It therefore stands to reason that a grant of probate is issued only if someone has died having left a will.
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Even so, a grant of probate may not always be necessary, according to the size of the estate and the types of assets from which it is composed. Typically, a grant of probate is necessary if, after funeral expenses, the estate is worth £5,000 or more, although banks and building societies exercise some discretion in this respect.
In England and Wales, if a grant of probate is required, the executor must complete various forms and register them with a section of the court known as the probate registry. The original will must be sent to the probate registry, so the executor may need to visit the solicitor who prepared it. Similarly, the executor also needs to swear an oath that the information supplied is the truth, so at least one visit to the probate registry or a local office is also necessary.
Once the application has been successfully processed and the grant of probate has been issued, the executor should send a copy of the grant to the deceased person’s bank and any other organisations that hold their assets. Those organisations should release the assets so that they can be transferred to an ‘executorship’ account and distributed as set out in the will. Of course, the executor is legally bound to pay off any debts or outstanding payments, including any tax owed, before distributing the estate.