What is Probate?

Probate is a term used when talking about applying to the Supreme Court for the right to deal with the estate of someone who has died. However, you’ll find that different terms are used, depending on if the deceased person left a Will. The process has been developed so that executors apply to the Supreme Court to prove a deceased person’s Will and that the author of the Will has died, the Will is authentic and the executor is who they say they are. For all Probate applications, the executor appointed by the Will is the person who administers the deceased estate and handles the disposal of their assets and debts. If your application to the Supreme Court is accepted, a document known as a ‘Grant of Probate’ or simply a ‘Grant’ or  is issued to you. The document confirms your right to administer the deceased’s estate.

Often, banks and insurers are asked to prove they are authorised to administer the Will before the assets can be released. The Grant of Probate is the proof required.

All Grants of Probate are stored, along with the corresponding Will and Death Certificate, at the Supreme Court. These are public documents.

Who can carry out probate?

If the deceased left a Will, they may have specified the designated these people are expected to “execute” the Will, which means they will share out the estate as specified and deal with any related complications, as well as carry out any other final wishes specified in the Will. However, you are not legally required to act as executor, even if you are the only executor named in the Will.

If there is no executor named, or there is no Will, someone must become the administrator of the estate – this will be someone who would benefit from the Will, or a blood relative if no Will exists.

The administrator largely performs the same tasks that an executor would, although they often have no Will to act upon.

If the deceased didn’t leave a Will, or there is only a copy of Will, a relative of the deceased can apply to the Supreme Court to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’. If the grant is given, they are known as ‘administrators’ of the estate. Like the Grant of Probate, the Grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.