The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) which regulates Law Firms now requires us to make clear how we charge for certain legal services.
The purpose of these rules, referred to generally as the “Transparency Rules”, are to make sure you have the information you need to make an informed choice when choosing a Law Firm to work with.
The area of law generally referred to as “Probate” covers the administration of estates following a death. The Transparency Rules apply to probate work undertaken by Solicitors where the administration of the estate itself is not contested and where all the assets are within the United Kingdom.
The term “Probate” is used to describe a number of different situations. When someone dies leaving assets, those assets are called their “estate”. How an estate is administered depends upon whether or not the person left a will and the value of their assets.
Broadly speaking, there are two distinct parts to the process. The first stage involves making an application to the Probate Registry. This is the part of the Court System in England and Wales which deals with this area. The process involves the Will being sent to the Probate Registry accompanied by a Legal Statement signed by the executors and the Probate Practitioner. The legal statement can be signed by Practitioners on behalf of the client and any of the applying executors, uploaded to an application through My HMCTS dashboard or sent by post.
If the Probate Registry is satisfied with the Will and the Legal Statement it issues an official certificate known as a “Grant of Probate”. The phrase “Probate” actually comes from a Latin verb “probus” which means to prove. The whole point of obtaining a Grant of Probate is that it provides evidence to third parties that the executors are legally entitled to deal with the estate. A Grant of Probate is not always necessary in small estates but is always necessary, for example, where the deceased owned a property. A Grant of Probate provides evidence to the Purchaser of the executor’s right to transfer the title to them.
If the person who died did not leave a will, then they are said to have died “intestate”. There is a set of rules known as the “intestacy rules” which apply in all cases where a person died without leaving a will (or their will is not valid). The intestacy rules which are based on a family tree, determine who is entitled to apply and who will receive the estate. The application differs slightly in cases where the deceased did not leave a will. The certificate issued in these cases is known as a grant of “Letters of Administration”.
In cases where there is a will, it appoints a person or persons to deal with the administration of the estate. They are known as the “executors”. Their authority comes from the will and although it is necessary for them to obtain the Grant of Probate in order to deal with the estate they are otherwise entitled to act immediately. In cases where there is no will, the individuals who apply have no authority until the Probate Registry issues it to them. They are known as the “administrator”.