Legal services and death – What Is Probate?

By | June 3, 2013

When someone dies, the process of making sure the assets they leave behind go to the right people can either be quite straightforward or reasonably complicated, depending on the preparation that has been put in place. Any legal process surrounding a death can be especially difficult for those involved and so anything that can be done to make things easier should be welcomed.


There are also many practical issues which need to be dealt with and the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person is at the top of the list. The first step in this process is called ‘Receipt of probate’ and it essentially sets in motion the actions that are needed for any claims on an estate to be resolved and for the distribution to be carried out correctly. The ‘estate’ is essentially the entirety of the deceased’s assets, covering everything from savings accounts to tangible possessions and right through to intellectual property rights.

What Is Probate?

Probate must be granted so that the executor named in the will can go about the process of distributing the estate to beneficiaries. A probated will becomes a legal document that is enforceable through the courts and gives the executor the legal power to dispose of the assets as outlined in the will.

Applying for Probate

Using solicitors such as Co-operative Legal Services make applying for probate a simple and straightforward process. In the UK legal procedures concerned with probate fall under the jurisdiction of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice, under provisions made in Section 25 of the Senior Courts Act 1981. As with any specialised court, undertaking proceedings yourself can be a daunting prospect and using an experienced legal advisor can be much less stressful.

The Will

The most common issue when it comes to probate is whether the deceased died leaving a valid will. If so, a grant of probate is usually straightforward. This is less important if the value of an estate is less than £5,000 or if all assets are held jointly and pass by survivorship. In cases where there is a surviving spouse, a grant is not usually needed. In other cases where an estate is small, some banks and building societies will allow immediate family members to close accounts without a grant. A figure of less than £15,000 is the amount that usually allows this to happen in the absence of other complications. The fact that making a will is a simple everyday procedure for any law firm means that there really shouldn’t be much thought given to whether or not it is a good idea. The amount of trouble and stress that can be saved by having a valid will in place means that anyone with dependants should make it a priority.