Non-Contentious Probate Rules

Ian Lewis[1]

Ian Lewis

Money Savings Advice Non-contested probate rules

The Non-Contentious Probate Rules were updated in November 2018, potentially to encourage more personal applications, although probate is complex and solicitor help is still recommended.

When applying for probate for a deceased family member, you’re either going to be going through contentious probate or non-contentious probate. As the name suggests, this depends on whether there are any parties who wish to dispute the will or the application for letters of administration.

Non-contentious probate is, therefore, a lot smoother a process, since you won’t be worrying about someone making a counter-claim on a deceased’s estate. That being said, there are still a number of rules that need to be followed and a strict process for probate to be granted.

Read on to find out about the non-contentious probate rules, including the latest changes.

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How Does Non-Contentious Probate Work?

When a person dies, there are a number of steps to follow in order to get a grant of probate. Firstly, you’ll need to register the death, which you’ll do at the registered office for the area where the death happened. You’ve got five days to do this in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and up to 8 days if it’s in Scotland.

Once that’s done, you’ll need to find out if the deceased had a will. If they did, it should name an executor, who would then take ownership of the rest of the process. If there’s no will or the will doesn’t mention an executor, or the executor isn’t capable of fulfilling the role, then the administration of probate can be taken on by any close relative, such as a married partner, parent or child.

The executor, or the person dealing with the estate, would then apply for probate. If it’s non-contentious, then it’ll be a little smoother, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. Things have changed recently with an update to the non-contentious probate rules in 2018 too, which we’ll cover later.

Once probate is granted, the executor then needs to administer the account, which includes informing any organizations that the deceased would’ve had a relationship with of their passing. So, that could include utility bills providers, landlords, debtors, government bodies (particularly if they claimed benefits), as well as paying off debts, making any life insurance claims and, then, creating a set of financial accounts to show all of the income and expenditure in the deceased’s estate. 

Once this is done, it’s time to start splitting the remainder with the beneficiaries as prescribed by the will. If there was no will, then the estate will normally pass to the partner if the deceased was in a marriage or civil partnership. Any partners not in one of these relationships will likely have to make a claim through the Inheritance Act 1975 in order to get their share of the estate.

However, in any case with a will or where the estate is worth more than £250,000, things can get more complex. Even when it seems straightforward, there are a lot of factors to consider when applying for probate.

What Are the Updates to the Rules?

The non-contentious probate rules that dictate how probate applications work and set out the standards for what will happen with an application were established in 1987. They are an extremely detailed set of rules that cover everything from taxation, to the evidence required for a claim, right through to grants in case of mental incapacity and other bespoke scenarios.

The non-contentious probate rules were updated in 2018. The view was that the rules needed to be updated to reflect modern life, but many criticized the way that the rules were pushed through quickly, leaving experienced solicitors to question whether they were properly thought through.

One of the main changes to the rules meant that anyone who wanted to apply for probate personal was able to apply online, whereas previously all applications were postal. They could also sign an electronic statement of truth, and make a payment online as part of the application process. 

Previously, personal applicants had to the visitor a solicitor to swear an oath of truth in person, and payments had to be made via cheque to the local Probate Registry. It’s worth noting that these new changes only apply to anyone who is making an application for a Grant of Probate (where a will exists). If you’re applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration (where there is no will), then the rules state you must still opt for the postal application route. 

Probate Is Complex

Despite these changes, which are primarily designed to make it easier and more modern for anyone looking to personally apply for probate, many experts still recommend seeking the advice of a solicitor. Probate is complex, and the application process is still tricky even though it can be done online.

Plus, it doesn’t factor for estates where things are more complex, such as uncertainty of the assets owned or questions about whether certain family members are entitled to their share of the wealth. For many people, it is still easier and more beneficial to speak to a solicitor and ask them to undertake the process, as they are experienced hands when it comes to dealing with probate.

It’s important that you get your application for probate right. Make mistakes, and you could end up being late, or you might struggle to pay off the debts of the deceased if you haven’t been able to take control of their estate.

Most importantly, if you do make an error, then you could open up the risk of disputes, which could incur severe legal costs if you need to take it all the way to court. So, if you’re concerned at all then consider seeking the help of a solicitor.

Extension of the Powers of District Probate Registrars

The other significant change as part of the amendments made in 2018 was the extension of the powers of district probate registrars, giving them similar powers to district judges. While in the short term this hasn’t shown a big difference in the way that probate cases are handled, it certainly opens the doors to potential developments in the future, which may be significant when trying to apply for grants personally.

For anyone who decides to use a solicitor or accountant to handle the application for probate, you’re hardly likely to notice a change with the introduction of the non-contentious probate rules 2018 amendments.

The process will be very similar, where you’ll visit your solicitor’s office to sign the will or provide any other details in the absence of a will, and give your statement of truth, the document which declares that the will and all supporting evidence is true.

Using a solicitor also helps to ensure non-contentious probate since it’s less likely that delays will occur. Longer delays tend to result in more people coming forward to stake a claim for an inheritance or a share of the estate, but if everything is handled quickly and efficiently by someone who is an expert in the field, the wishes of the deceased can be carried out as soon as possible, and there’ll be no long mediations or trials that you need to attend.

How Can Money Savings Advice Help You Contentious Probate?

Here at Money Savings Advice, we have partnered with some of the UK’s leading Contested Probate claim management companies. They have already helped thousands of people make successful probate claims and they can do the same for you.

Choosing an independent claims management company means they won’t proceed with a claim unless they are sure it is in your best interests. They are also regulated by the FCA, which gives you an additional layer of protection.

If you would like to speak to one of these claim management companies who can help you make a probate claim, then click on the below and answer the very simple questions.

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Money Savings Advice Author Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis is one of our specialist financial writers. Ian has over 15 years of financial writing experience, having worked for some of the largest financial publications in the UK covering topics from mortgages, equity release, loans and financial claims, to name a few.

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