WHAT IS PROBATE?
Probate is the process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died, which usually means clearing their debts and distributing their assets in accordance with their will.
A person's estate includes:
Money, both cash and money in a bank or building society account. This could include money paid out on a life insurance policy
Money owed to the person who has died
Property, for example, their home
Personal possessions, for example, their car or jewellery.
If the person who died owes money to other people, for example, on a credit card, for fuel, for rent or a mortgage, this comes out of the estate.
If you're responsible for executing someone's will, there are specific rules that set out how you notify the authorities and distribute the estate. For permission to manage this process, you'll need to apply for a Grant of Probate. There are separate rules if someone dies without a will, otherwise known as dying intestate.
The person dealing with the estate of the person who has died is called an executor or an administrator. An executor is someone who is named in the will as responsible for dealing with the estate. An executor may have to apply for a special legal authority before they can deal with the estate. This is called probate.
WHAT IS AN ADMINISTRATOR?
An administrator is someone who is responsible for dealing with an estate under certain circumstances, for example, if there is no will or the named executors aren't willing to act. An administrator has to apply for letters of administration before they can deal with an estate.
Although there are some exceptions, it is usually against the law for you to start sharing out the estate or to get money from the estate, until you have probate or letters of administration.