My mother left a will. Do I need probate?

If your mother has written a will, would you have to seek probate to authenticate the will when the time comes that she passes away? Often people assume that, once a will is written and signed, they will not need probate. Lee Young, a solicitor and Head of our Wills & Tax Team, addresses this issue.

In essence, making a will does not negate the need to obtain a ‘grant of representation’. Most estates do need to go through probate. It is not a question of whether your relative left a will, but whether or not the assets dealt with by the will are the sort of assets that require a ‘grant of probate’ before they can be dealt with under the terms of the will. The purpose of a will is to carry out the wishes of the person who died, regarding what happens to their wealth and possessions (which is referred to as their ‘estate’) after they have passed away.

A grant of representation is the legal authority for the person dealing with the estate to close bank accounts, cash in investments and sell or transfer property. However, the grant of representation itself can take different forms, depending on whether an individual dies with or without a will, and depending on who is applying for the grant. A grant of representation is more commonly known as ‘probate’ if there is a will; if there is not a will, it is called ‘letters of administration’.

In this case, if you mother’s assets are sufficiently high in value, or if she owns property, then a grant of representation is likely to be needed for those who are appointed as her executors in her will. If she died without making a will, her nearest relatives would be able to deal with the estate and transfer it to whoever is entitled to inherit under the intestacy laws.

The process can be straightforward or difficult, depending on the nature and extent of your assets. Applications can be made by the executors direct to the probate registry, without formal, paid for help. Alternatively, most people find it easier to approach a solicitor for the necessary assistance, not only because it can be complicated but people are usually dealing with grief at the same time and it can be simpler to have a guide through the process at that difficult time. Other professional advisers can also help with the process.

Lee concludes by saying “The important point about making a will is that you are making a positive choice about who will deal with things on your behalf rather than leaving it to the law to choose, or whoever is inclined to help when the time comes.”

Our Wills & Tax Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Lee or his team, will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.