A grant may not be necessary, and listed below are some of the instances where it may be possible to obtain the assets without a grant:-
1) Where a property is held in joint names as ‘joint tenants’. This means the property automatically becomes wholly owned by the surviving joint tenant. Not all property held in joint names is held as ‘joint tenants’. A property may be held as ‘tenants in common’ and will then form part of the deceased’s estate and will go to whomever is entitled to inherit it. (This is nothing to do with renting property and applies where property is owned;anything may be owned jointly e.g. a house or a car).
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If you are not sure how the property is owned and if the land is registered at the Land Registry you should check the proprietorship register which forms part of the land certificate. If you find the following clause, it will mean that the property is held as ‘tenants in common’:‘No disposition by one proprietor of the land (being the survivor of joint proprietors and not being a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered except under an order of the Registrar or the Court’. If a mortgage is still outstanding the lender should be asked to check the charge certificate in their possession to determine ownership. If the property is not registered at the Land Registry it will be necessary to check the deeds to define ownership.
2) Where assets are held in joint names, for example bank accounts.
3) Where the total amount of money held in National Savings and Investments accounts, pension funds, and by insurance companies and building societies, is less than £5,000. There is no obligation however for any institution such as a bank, building society, insurance company, National Savings and Investments etc, or wherever the deceased person has savings, shares, policies, certificates, etc, to release the asset without probate/administration, however small the amount.
4) Where the assets in the estate are made up entirely of cash (bank notes and coins) and personal possessions such as a car, jewellery, or furniture.
5) Where a ‘nomination agreement’ exists (these agreements could only be made before 1981, and allowed the owner of a property to nominate that it should be passed to a particular person in the event of death). To ascertain whether the assets can be obtained without a grant, it is necessary to write to each institution informing them of the death of the deceased and enclosing a photocopy of the death certificate (if there is a Will a photocopy of this should also be enclosed), and details of the assets and your relationship to the deceased. At a later stage you may be asked to complete an indemnity form – this means that you undertake to reimburse the institution if it is proved that someone has a stronger claim to the assets than yourself. You may also be asked to send the original documents. Preferably these should be delivered by hand but if this is not possible they should be sent by registered or recorded delivery, with a request that the Will should be returned by return of post. A copy of the Will should be kept in a safe place.