Probate is the legal process that checks a Will is valid.
Probate – called confirmation in Scotland – oversees and allows the legal distribution of the estate.
Almost immediately on death the paperwork starts. If you are the Executor of an estate – named in the Will or the responsible person – you may find that when you approach banks and other financial organisations to assess the value of the estate they will ask you to provide a copy of the death certificate and sometimes the Will. Once you have the values of all the assets, you complete the form and apply for a grant of confirmation or representation. Only at this point will the Estate pay out.
You’ll have to fill in an application form and an Inheritance Tax form (even if no tax ends up being due). You’ll have to go in person to the Probate Office (or Sheriff Court in Scotland) to swear an oath then wait for the grant of representation/confirmation to arrive in the post. This gives you legal authority to access information from banks and others. Then you can carry on with the task of sorting out debts and claims against the Will, settling squabbles and distributing the remaining property, money and other belongings.
If there are no Executors nominated or willing and able, a lawyer can apply for Letters of Administration to appoint Executors.
Depending on the size and complexity of the Estate the process can take months and may involve a fair bit of paperwork and court appearances by lawyers. Their fees can be paid from the Estate.
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