When the deceased dies leaving a will, the executors entitled to deal with the estate are named in the will. When no will is left, the intestacy laws tell us who is entitled to represent the estate, i.e. act as an administrator.
However, unless the value of the estate left by the deceased is very small, no financial institution will release the assets they hold in the name of the deceased to the executor or administrator without authority. Everyone will ask for a Grant. What is it and how to get it?
A Grant is an official document, sealed by the Probate Registry and confirming that the person named on it is entitled to deal with the estate, i.e. collect all the assets, pay all liabilities and debts of the estate and distribute the net balance to entitled beneficiaries. The Grant issued to executors is called a Grant of Probate. The Grant issued to the administrators of an intestate estate is called a Grant of Letters of Administration.
Most often an application for a Grant is made within 3 – 6 months of death. Formally speaking there is no deadline by which an application for a Grant must be made. However, executors who do not make an application for a Grant within a year of the date of death may be criticised by the beneficiaries. They may also suffer potential fines and interest payments for non-payment of inheritance taxes in time.
Before applying for a Grant, the executor or administrator needs to collect information about all assets of the deceased and their value at the time of death. They will, therefore, need to raise enquiries with the family, go through the deceased documentation, write to banks and financial institutions, policy holders etc. They also ought to get valuations of the deceased’s properties or any valuables. Information needs to be gathered not only about the deceased’s assets located in England and Wales but anywhere in the world.
With this information, reports as to the composition and value of the estate need to be made to HMRC. If inheritance tax is due, the tax needs to be paid. The executor or administrator must be aware that they face potential penalties, if the information provided by them is inaccurate and as a result tax is underpaid.
The executor or administrator then needs to swear an oath. They need to submit the sworn oath with a court fee, the original will (in case of testate estate) and proof of payment of Inheritance Tax or evidence that no such payment is due, to the Probate Registry.
After inspection of the documents by the Registry (which on average takes between 3 – 8 weeks from submission, unless the Registry has any additional enquiries to raise) the Registry will proceed to issue the appropriate Grant.