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Do You Need Probate?

April 19, 2011


None of us want to think about a family member or loved one dying, and quite understandably. However, this inevitable denial can lead to a difficult situation should the worst happen, since it results in us being completely uneducated about the steps we need to take.

Most of us know that when someone dies, a funeral needs to be arranged, and items within a will need to be distributed. What a lot of us do not realize is that in order to access these items from within the will, we will usually require a grant of probate. However, this is not always the case, and it is helpful to educate ourselves so that in the event of a death, we are prepared for what needs to follow.

Probate, put simply, involves establishing the total value of all the assets tied up in the deceased’s estate, and then determining who is permitted to distribute the assets in accordance with the will (assuming that there is a will).

However there are two primary cases in which probate will not be required.

First of all, if the total value of the assets (this includes any property, monies and items of value such as cars, antiques and jewelery) is under a certain threshold (the threshold varies according to country, council or state) then probate will not be required, and distribution of any assets is a quicker and simpler process. However, it should be noted that in the case that the deceased has left behind any debts, their estate must be used in order to settle these. Therefore if the value of the debt exceeds that which is tied up in the estate, the deceased’s family will not inherit anything.

Additionally, if all that the deceased owned was legally shared with a partner (as in a joint mortgage and joint bank account) then probate will also not be needed. However in most cases, a death certificate will be required in order to fully complete the exchange of monies and property over to one set of hands.

Therefore, in the case of most deaths, probate will need to be obtained. In this case, probate fees can be quite significant, yet there are a number of things which can be done in order to keep probate cost to a minimum.

The process of obtaining probate can be completed without any legal assistance. However while it may appear that this would keep the cost to a bare minimum, in the case that mistakes are made the probate cost can quickly stack up.

The quickest and easiest method of obtaining probate is to employ a professional; whether that is an individual solicitor or a specialist probate firm. Some solicitors and firms may charge an hourly rate for their services, for which should the case turn out to be more complicated than anticipated, the probate fees can significantly add up. Therefore, the best way to keep the probate cost down is to simply find a firm or solicitor that will charge a fixed probate cost. Such firms and solicitors are becoming increasingly commonplace. They work simply by examining the probate case, and providing you with set probate fees based upon how complicated they have determined the case will be.

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