When someone dies the assets of their estate automatically vest in the executor at the date of death. However in order for the property to be distributed to beneficiaries, the executor must apply to the Probate office to take out a Grant of Probate to administer their estate.
There are different types of Grant issued by the Probate Office depending on the circumstances of the deceased. The three most common types of Grant issued by the Probate Office are the following:
- Grant of Probate: Where a person dies leaving a valid will and appoints an Executor.
- Grant of Letters of Administration: This Grant issues when a person dies without having made a valid Will (i.e. dies Intestate.) A Grant of Letters of Administration issues to the next of kin of the Deceased.
- Grant of Letters of Administration with Will Annexed: This Grant issues where a person has died having made a valid will however a person other than the executor applies to take out a Grant.
The first thing that must therefore be done is determine whether the deceased has made a Will.
The will contains the appointment of an executor(s). If the executor does not wish to act or has predeceased the deceased the estate will have to be administered by a person called an administrator (In these circumstances a Grant of Letters of Administration with Will Annexed is required) . This person will be the residuary legatee and devisee (i.e. the person who inherits the remainder of the estate that is left after all the gifts under the will have been satisfied.)
The next step the executor/ administrator must take is to ascertain the entire assets and liabilities of the deceased. It should be noted that property held in joint names is not included in the deceased’s estate. The principle of survivorship applies to such property and so on the death of one joint owner, his interest automatically passes to the survivor.
Once a full schedule of assets and liabilities are prepared, papers are drafted and an application is made to Probate office for a Grant of Probate/ Grant of Administration . This will include the submission of a number of documents, a schedule of the assets and liabilities of the estate and the original will. If the Probate office requires clarification of any issue in a Will, it may be necessary to trace witnesses and have them clarify these queries with the assistance of the Solicitor acting in the estate. Such cases are the exception rather than the norm and most Probates are concluded in a six – nine month timeframe from when your solicitor receives all relevant information.
Once a Grant issues the estate can then be administered. At this stage properties can be sold or transferred, financial institutions can be contacted to withdrawn funds. The estate will be fully distributed to beneficiaries and an administration account will be provided setting out the details of the administration of the estate.