There is probably a universal consensus there is nothing sadder than a death in the family. Unfortunately, apart from the sadness and grief which can envelop a family, as well as friends and neighbours, there are many details that need to be addressed, which encompass far more than just the funeral arrangements or a wake. If the deceased had any assets, these need to be distributed to the surviving family members, as well as any potential friends, commonly referred to as the beneficiaries, according to the wishes of the deceased, as spelled out in their will. If there was no valid will, the situation can be even more complex.
As probably everyone knows, the process of distributing the assets of the deceased to their designated beneficiaries is not necessarily very simple, nor is it an arbitrary process. There is a specific legal procedure that must be followed, which is commonly referred to as probate. Although the term has a specific legal meaning, it is generally used in the United Kingdom to refer to the global process of distributing these assets, regardless of what they are, or what form the process itself might take.
As a general rule, and with very few exceptions, all of the proceedings regarding probate are handled by the Family Division of the High Court of Justice. This particular section of the High Court is granted this power through Section 25 of the Senior Courts Act of 1981. The High Court is the only legal body which can in fact give legal authority to individuals to act on behalf of the deceased, in the disposition or allocation of their surviving assets. While the court can issue various different types of legal authority, which are typically known as Grants, the two most common ones are either the Grant of Probate, if there was a valid will place at the time of death, or a Letter of Administration, in the event no will exists.
To a large extent, both these forms of representation, which are issued by the High Court, and referred to as the Grant of Representation, carry the same amount of responsibility and legal authority. With them, the appointed representatives, referred to legally as the Personal Representatives, can close bank accounts, distributing the proceeds to the beneficiaries, as well as sell any other assets, such as vehicles, real estate, stocks and bonds, or other forms of investment. They even have the authority to sell a business that was owned by the deceased. All this of course contemplates that the deceased had created a valid will before their death. This is obviously extremely helpful, as it helps the executors of the estate know exactly how to dispose of any assets, and how to disburse or deed any additional assets or cash balances.
It's Always a Good Idea to Get Expert Advice
Given the potential complexities, as well as the legal responsibilities, which come with acting as the Personal Representative in a probate case, it is often advisable to get expert legal counsel regarding the process before proceeding. There is no reason why an individual should tackle what can be a formidable challenge without getting sound advice.