When a person dies, somebody has to deal with their estate. ‘Probate’ is a term commonly used when talking about applying for the right to deal with a deceased person’s affairs. It’s sometimes called ‘administering the estate’.
Being named in the will, or being the nearest next of kin and therefore entitled to be administrator, is only the first step in the process. Before anyone can actually do anything with your assets and debts, they need a ‘Grant of Probate’ (if you have left a will) or ‘Letters of Administration’ (if you haven’t) from the Probate Registry. To obtain either grant you need at least a good estimate of the values of the assets and debts, so the more you leave everything in order, the faster probate will be granted. To obtain a Grant of Probate, the executor named in the Will must apply to the Probate Office of the Supreme Court. If your application is approved, you as the executor will be given a Grant of Probate to confirm the author of the Will has died, the Will is authentic and the executor is who they say they are.
The reason you sometimes need a Grant of Probate is that in order to protect the interests of those who hold the deceased’s assets (for example banks) the executor may be asked to prove they are authorised to administer the Will before the assets can be released. The Grant of Probate is the proof required. Once you have received The ‘Grant of Probate’ or ‘Letters of Administration’ the grant can then be shown to anyone being asked to release your money or other assets.
All Grants of Probate are stored, along with the corresponding Will, at the Supreme Court. These are public documents. If a deceased person does not have a Will, validation of their estate and benefactors is not done with a Grant of Probate, but with a similar document known as ‘letters of administration’.