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Explaining the terminology concerning probate

View profile for Philip Nelson
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Explaining the terminology concerning probate

Dealing with someone’s estate following a death can feel like a real challenge, fortunately most of us only have to face it once or twice and therefore it can seem like a step into the unknown. 

The terminology and procedures are also alien and old fashioned.

A lot is said about probate. Probate is the process of registering a will at the court and it confirms the will is valid and that those named as executors have authority to act and to deal with the estate – to collect in assets and to distribute them in accordance with the terms of the will.

The actual authority stems from death and these days most banks and building societies will deal with executors without needing to see probate for relatively large amounts. To sell or transfer a house or land and to deal with shares, probate is usually needed.

If there is no will, rather than executors, there is an administrator and rather than probate, letters of administration. The administrator is usually the first in line to benefit from the estate (or one of them).  Dealing with an estate without a will is more complicated and therefore it is always best to have a will in place.

Other terms used are ‘personal representatives’ and ‘grant of representation’ – that is simply a catch all for probate and administration – so if a bank asks for a grant of representation they mean probate or letters of administration.

Whilst it is something that an executor can do themselves, taking advice early on can save a lot of time and stress at what is already a difficult time. We are happy to have an initial conversation or meeting to discuss any issues and then for executors to decide what they want to do.

Our articles are intended for general information purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. We are always very happy to discuss any plans, issues or concerns you may have and to clarify how we might be able to help. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.