If there is a Will, then the deceased should have named an Executor or more than one Executor to carry out the instructions in their Will. There can be up to four named Executors, who will work together to ‘execute’ the Will in terms of sharing out the Estate and final wishes of their deceased loved one. These Executors should apply for Probate.
If there is no Will, your deceased loved one has been left ‘intestate’. This means that the closest person to the deceased will need to apply for Letters of Administration, to become an authorized administrator of the Will. The administrator will need to be a blood relative, and will only be able to distribute the Estate according to the rules of intestacy. This blood relative should apply to the Probate Registry for Letters of Administration.
Being named as an Executor does not legally oblige you to Execute the deceased’s Will, and in some cases even when there is a Will, there is no Executor named. In cases where the Executor has refused to take responsibility, or where no Executor is named, a blood relative will need to apply for Letters of Administration to become an administrator too.
There are some situations where Probate is not required. This is usually when:
In these cases, most banks and building societies will release funds or transfer accounts into sole ownership on production of a death certificate.
Probate will only be granted when some or all of the inheritance tax has been paid on the Estate. When assets are complicated, involving large values or multiple properties, Probate is likely to take longer than if there was just one house and a single account held.
Probate can also take a good deal of input from the Executor(s) or administrator(s), and the more time you can be available to deal with it, the faster things will be resolved. However, with many of us tied up with work and family commitments, this is not always possible.
On average, Probate will usually be dealt with in around six to nine months. However, in complicated cases it can take significantly longer. In cases where the will is contested, or where the deceased did not keep accurate accounts of all their assets, it could take much longer. Cases have been known to drag on for several years.
If you are anticipating having a tricky time with Probate, get a legal advisor involved as soon as you can. There will be a cost involved in hiring a solicitor, but it can save a great deal of grief in the long run if you know you’re going to be dealing with a tricky probate case.