When a person dies the assets they owned at the date of their death form their Estate. Those assets – including any land, investments, personal belongings and property – will be distributed according to the wishes of the Deceased if they left a Will or the rules of intestacy if they did not make a Will.
The obligation to administer the Estate on behalf of the deceased passes, on their death, to their Executors (if they made a Will) or Administrators (if they died without making a Will).
The Executors or Administrators will apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. This is the formal document that gives those Executors or Administrators permission to call in the assets of the Deceased, to sell property if they need to convert it into cash and to pay liabilities and debts.
The remaining assets are then distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will or the rules of Intestacy.
If there is a dispute about the validity of a Will or the way in which the estate should be administered it is helpful to be able to stop a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration being issued in the first place. To do this you will need to enter a Caveat.
What is a Caveat?
A Caveat can be lodged at the Probate Registry to stop the Executors or Administrators from obtaining a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
Only someone over the age of 18 can lodge a Caveat and the reasons for stopping the issue of a Grant are limited to genuine disputes about fraud or the validity or existence of a Will, and concern as to whether the person applying for the Grant is appropriate.
An application for a Caveat is easy to make – you can do it online via the Government website https://www.gov.uk/stop-probate-application or via postal application (available from that same weblink) or you can ask us to do this for you. The Probate Registry charge a fee of £3 to lodge a Caveat.
Once a Caveat is in place it will remain on the Probate Registry for 6 months. It can be removed in the meantime or renewed before the 6 months expires.
A Caveat must only be lodged if there is a genuine reason to object to the issue of a Grant.
What to do once a Caveat is issued
If you have grounds to lodge a Caveat you should contact a specialist in contentious probate disputes to talk through the next steps.
The 6 month period will pass quickly and if a Warning is served to remove the Caveat there will be only a short time to file an Appearance in response and justify the Caveat.
Steps should be taken straight away to investigate the causes of concern that gave rise to the Caveat being issued. That might involve contacting witnesses to see if the Will was properly signed, or collating evidence to show that the Deceased lacked capacity when the Will was written. Whatever the grounds for the Caveat, anyone wishing to challenge the issue of a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
For more information, please contact a member of our Contentious Trust & Probate team.
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