If you believe that you may have a claim against an estate, you will need to ascertain who is dealing with the estate. The persons dealing with the estate will either be named in the Will (the executors) or if there is no will or the Will does not detail the names of any executors, then these persons (personal representatives) will be determined by law.
If you do not know whether or not a Will exists, you will need to find out and the best way to do so if you do not know who is holding the Will (which may be a relative, friend or professional) is to first consider whether the Will is registered online (for example, with Certainty) and secondly, to conduct a search of the probate registry to apply for a copy of the grant of probate. You can also conduct a search of the probate registry if there is no Will to obtain a copy of the letters of administration to identify the personal representatives.
If order to obtain a copy of the grant of probate or letters of administration, you will need to know thefull name of the deceased, the deceased’s last permanent address and date of death in order to try and find out who the executors or personal representatives are. This information is easily identifiable from a death certificate.
HOW TO APPLY FOR A DEATH CERTIFICATE
The General Register Office (GRO) website provides and online service and this will enable you to order a copy of a death certificate of a person whose death was registered in England and Wales. You can also use this service to help you research the family tree of the deceased.
HOW TO SEARCH FOR A GRANT OF PROBATE
1. General Search
You can apply online or by post. If the person has died after 1858, then their record will be online.
You can search and apply online for a grant of probate https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate. The service costs £10.
If you wish to apply by post, you can download and fill in form PA1S which is available on www.gov.uk. It costs £10 for a search, which includes a copy of the grant of probate and the will (if there is one) or letters of administration. The address that you need to send it to is on the form.
2. Standing Search
If a general search has failed to provide any information, you can apply for a standing search which will remain “active” (i.e. it will search the Probate Registry for a grant of probate) for six months. If a grant of probate is issued during the six month period, the Probate Registry will send you a copy of the grant (and any Will) enabling you to liaise with the personal representatives or executors.
To apply for a standing search, download and fill in form PA1S from www.gov.uk. If a grant and Will (if there is one) is issued in the next 6 months, you will receive a copy. The cost is £10.
If the standing search expires, you can continually renew your application. A further fee will be payable for each renewal.
A caveat prevents a grant of probate from being issued by the Probate Registry. There are only a number of circumstances when this procedure should be used and the following examples are not intended to be an exhaustive list. If you believe that you have a dispute then we would suggest that you consider taking legal advice as soon as possible.
Examples of when a caveat may be used?
- If you suspect that the Will that is being admitted to the Probate Registry is not the last Will of the deceased.
- If you believe that the deceased did not have capacity when the Will was made.
- The Will has not been properly signed or witnessed.
- There is a dispute that a Will exists
- There is a dispute as to who should apply for probate.
How to I request a Caveat?
A written request is sent to the probate registry using a form PA8. There is a fee payable to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Services (HMCTS) of £20. The caveat lasts for a six month period and prevents the probate registry from issuing a Grant of Representation. You can renew a caveat application in the month before expiry to ensure that you are afforded as much protection.
What happens if a request for a Grant is received by the Probate Registry?
The person applying for the grant of probate will be contacted by the probate registry and advised that there is a caveat preventing the issue of a grant of probate. This may then force the persons dealing with the estate to take steps to "warn off" i.e. try to remove the caveat. You will then be required within 8 days to state your interest in the estate by putting in an "appearance". The caveat can be removed by the probate registry if you fail to take any steps. If you enter an appearance the caveat will remain in force indefinitely until matters are finally resolved.
What happens next?
The probate registry will expect the parties to take steps to resolve any dispute. You or the person applying for a grant of probate may issue a summons which will be heard by the District Probate Registry. The alternative is that you or the person applying for a grant may commence a probate action.
If you are considering entering a caveat we would suggest that you take legal advice as to whether or not you have a claim against the estate. There are cost consequences with regards to any formal proceedings which you will need to consider carefully before entering into any dispute.
For further advice and help please do contact Dispute A Will on 0800 975 2166 or email via the contact page .