What is it and why might it be needed?
You may have heard of going through ‘Probate’ or having to get a ‘Grant’ to deal with a person’s assets when they die. The jargon can be confusing and it is helpful to understand what it all means.
A Grant is a legal document which sets out the details of the person who has died and the value of that person’s estate. It also says the name and address of each person dealing with the assets and gives them the legal authority to do so. To get a Grant, an application must be made to the court, called the Probate Registry, and there may be some involvement from HMRC.
A Grant of Probate applies where a person has died leaving a Will. A Grant of Letters of Administration applies where a person has died without a valid Will.
A Grant isn’t always needed. If all of the deceased person’s assets are held in joint names and there are no assets in their sole name, a Grant is unlikely to be needed as each asset would simply pass to the surviving joint owner. A bank would not need to see a Grant to deal with a joint bank account as they would just remove the deceased’s name from the account, leaving it in the name of the survivor.
If a person who has died held a bank account in their sole name, the bank may ask to see a Grant before closing down the account. It would depend on the balance in the account. Each bank or building society has its own rules about when a Grant is needed to deal with an asset and the first step is to contact them to check their requirements.
NS&I, which deals with National Savings and premium bonds among other things, currently has a Probate limit of £5,000. This means that if the value of a person’s premium bonds or National Savings is more than £5,000 when they die, NS&I will need to see a Grant to close down the assets.
If a person owned a house in their sole name when they died, a Grant would be needed to sell the property or to transfer it to someone else, such as a beneficiary named in the Will. For instance, if a person dies leaving a Will which appoints their two children as Executors and the Will leaves the house equally to those two children, the children may decide to sell the property and share the net sale proceeds rather than keeping the house. The solicitor instructed to deal with the sale would need to send the buyer’s solicitor a Grant as sufficient proof that the two children are entitled to deal with the asset (as the Executors). The children can then sign all documentation to enable the property to sell.
It is a good idea to seek legal advice before dealing with a person’s assets and speaking to someone who is used to the process can give an Executor or the next of kin peace of mind at a time when it is most needed.