What Is a Grant of Probate?
When a person dies, her assets are usually handed down to beneficiaries who become the legal owners of the property. This transfer of ownership is commonly carried out according to the terms included in her Last Will and Testament, a document that, if deemed valid, not only allows the decedent to stipulate who will get which of her assets, but also who she would like to oversee the transfer.
The latter person who acts as estate manager and asset distributor is called an executor and he must obtain a Grant of Probate from the appropriate court before acting on the deceased’s wishes.
Probate is a legal term for the process of distributing a deceased person’s property to any beneficiaries after determining who should get what, as well as handling any financial transactions or requirements following the death, such as filing a last tax return and paying debts.
Executors, also called personal representatives, play a central administrative role in the probate process by managing paperwork and ensuring filing deadlines are met; locating and keeping track of assets; and distributing inheritances to the proper beneficiaries and in the correct amount.
Unless there is extensive property involved or related estate disputes (for example, with creditors or among beneficiaries), executors often never have to set foot in court and can tend to all administrative requirements by mail.
A Grant of Probate is a legal document obtained during the probate process that gives an executor the legal authority to manage a deceased person’s possessions, also called the estate.
These possessions can be anything from money to artwork to real estate to investments to any other type of property.
The authority accorded by a Grant of Probate includes the ability to receive and distribute assets, make decisions about how assets should be handled and settle any outstanding debts on the decedent’s behalf.
An executor is either designated as such in the deceased’s will or appointed by a court if the will names no executor, there is no will, or a previously appointed executor withdraws from or declines the position.
To receive a Grant of Probate, a potential executor must be an adult and agree to accept the position. Although many executors have a personal stake in the probate process as a beneficiary named in the decedent’s will, that is not a requirement.
In order to obtain a Grant of Probate, executors do not have to have any formal legal or financial training. However, if an executor finds managing an estate overwhelming or too difficult, she can step down.
Her replacement will then have to obtain a Grant of Probate also before proceeding.
The executor of an estate must respect the fiduciary standards of the role, which includes being honest and fair at all times.
Violating those obligations can allow another party to successfully contest the executor’s fitness to administer the estate and cause him to have his Grant of Probate revoked.
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