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Need a bit of help with probate law in the UK? Five commonly asked probate questions answered

When a family member or loved one dies, the last thing you will want to think about is contacting a legal agency. The next few months are going to be tough and you are unlikely to want to involve any external agency into your personal affairs as you grieve.

There are many instances during which a legal representative is essential, in processing matters relating to the estate and handling assets or other items that belonged to the person that has passed away. Indeed, in the UK, many families find themselves turning to solicitors due to disputes over inheritance and so, while it may seem difficult, it is always best to seek legal advice to help your family navigate through such issues.

There will be a plethora of questions that you or other family members will want answered; if the person passed suddenly or left no will, there are bound to be disagreements about the distribution of assets or next of kin. This is where probate solicitors are an invaluable resource.

To save some time, the most commonly asked questions relating to probate are answered below to help you.

Do I need to go through probate?

There are many reasons that you may need to go through probate. If you need to sort the affairs of someone who has died, if there are debts to be paid off, if you want to contest a will or indeed, if no will was left, then you will need to contact probate solicitors to help you. Also, if the estate of the deceased exceeds £5,000, then it is wise to seek the advice of probate solicitors.

Is going through probate my responsibility?

Generally, sorting through the legal affairs of the deceased is the responsibility of the executor of their estate.

If an executor was not named in life or in the will, then the next of kin is responsible for managing the distribution of the finances. If you apply for probate, then it is assumed that you are responsible for the distribution of assets and the paying of any outstanding debts.

I’ve been named as the executor but I don’t want to be; what are my options?

You can renounce this title, assuming that you have not begun the process of dividing up the assets or sorting out the legal affairs obtained therein.

When you resign your executorship, you also resign your ability to apply for probate related to the person who named you executor.

The estate owes more than can be paid by the inheritance; what are the options?

A very common and very frustrating problem for executors.

In the event that the deceased did not have any shares in foreign properties, stocks or bonds, then the executor will have to obtain their own means of paying off any debts owed.

How long will probate take?

On average, in the UK, the completion of probate usually takes between six to nine months. More complex cases can take up to two years to complete.