‘Probate’ is the phrase used by solicitors to mean the distribution of someone’s assets (known as their ‘estate’) after they have died.

Steps to take before seeing a solicitor

  1. Find out if the person who has died had a Will. If they did, it will need to be located and the person or people named as executors will need to be the people in charge of managing the estate.
  2. Make a list of the assets that the person owned at the time of their death.
  3. Obtain a death certificate for the person who has died, as a solicitor will be unable to help without one.

Doing these three things will enable a solicitor to help the executors apply for a Grant of Probate, which will enable them to distribute the estate.

What happens when Probate has been granted? All companies involved in the estate must be contacted and all assets must be collected by the executors. All liabilities must then be paid and at that point any gifts either in a Will or through intestacy can be distributed.

Do I need to keep accounts? Yes. The executors must compile proper accounts, showing the figures at the date of death and all the payments and receipts since then.

How long will it take? It is almost impossible to predict at the start of dealing with an estate how long it is going to take. Traditionally, people talk about the “executor’s year”. Everything is usually concluded within 12 months, although it often takes less time than this. For estates where there is no inheritance tax to pay, we would suggest that 6 months would be the average timescale. For larger, more complicated estates it could be longer than this – in some extreme cases (usually involving complicated trusts or very valuable estates), it can take several years.