Probate refers to the court-supervised process of proving a Will.
What is meant by ‘applying for probate’?
When a person dies, it is sometimes necessary to apply for a grant of representation to deal with that person’s estate (such as land or buildings, money or other possessions owned at the date of death). This process is sometimes colloquially referred to as ‘applying for probate’.
A grant of representation or a ‘grant’ is a court-issued document which entitles a named individual to represent the deceased’s estate and distribute his/her assets. There are many different forms of grant which can issue. The two most common grants are a grant of probate (where there is a will) or a grant of letters of administration (where there is no will).
What is a grant of probate?
A grant of probate is a court-sealed document that proves an executor named in a Will has the authority to deal with a deceased person’s assets. Applying for a grant of probate involves submitting an estate account on oath or an ‘Inland Revenue Affidavit’ to the Probate Office along with the original Will, amongst other documents (see courts service website here for further information). Once a Will has been authenticated by the Probate Office, a grant of probate will issue, and you as executor will be free to sell property, pay off debts, close accounts and distribute assets in accordance with the Will.
What is an ‘executor’?
An executor is a person named in a Will to administer an estate of a deceased person.
What is a grant of letters of administration?
A grant of letters of administration is an official court document that proves you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate where there is no Will. The key difference between a grant of letters of administration and a grant of probate is that the former is needed where there is no will. It may also be required in cases where there is a will but the executors are unable to deal with the estate. This is known as a grant of letters of administration with will annexed.
If you recently lost a loved one and stand to inherit the majority of his/ her estate under the rules of intestacy, you may need to apply for a grant of letters of administration before you can deal with that person’s assets. As part of this process, you will become the administrator of the estate.
Comparing solicitor’s fees quoted in a probate matter
When comparing prices quoted by probate lawyers to act on your behalf to extract a grant of representation you may notice that fees quoted differ by hundreds or potentially thousands of euros. That may be because each firm is quoting on a different basis. Broadly, there are two types of service a solicitor can provide a personal representative when s/he is required to extract a grant of representation: a) apply for the appropriate grant (in which case fees tend to be lower); or b) apply for the appropriate grant and administer the estate according to the Will or the rules of intestacy (in which case solicitor fees tend to be higher). If you need the sale of land or buildings to be included in the price quoted you will need to specifically ask a solicitor to quote for this work too as otherwise it may not be included in the fee quote.
Applying for a grant of representation only
In circumstances where both the personal representative and the beneficiaries of an estate are resident in Ireland, it is possible for a solicitor to be instructed just for the purposes of applying for a grant of representation. In that instance, the personal representative will be required to administer the estate him/herself after the grant has issued.
In many cases, instructing a solicitor to apply for a grant of representation only is not a recommended approach due to Irish inheritance and tax rules which can be complicated. Instructing an experienced solicitor to administer an estate has the potential to offer real value to a personal representative and beneficiaries in terms of navigating potentially complicated inheritance rules, preparing final estate accounts and keeping records.
Quote for Applying for Representation only
To provide a quote under this heading, we will need to gather relevant information about the estate and the deceased’s immediate family members. A solicitor will then review the information and, if no further documents are required, s/he will send you a quote for preparing the appropriate application for a grant.
This option is only recommended in very limited circumstances such as where the estate consists of cash at a bank only and the deceased had no dependents. In most cases, we would recommend a personal representative to engage a full estate administration service from a solicitor.
Full estate administration
Full estate administration includes all work involved in applying for a grant of representation in addition to the administration that is required afterwards such as paying off debts, dealing with inheritance tax issues, selling property, closing bank accounts and collecting funds, claiming on life insurance policies, and distributing funds to beneficiaries. Most importantly we are required to retain records and advise you in relation to potential claims which could be made against the estate.
The work required to administer an estate varies from case to case. While many probate solicitors charge a percentage of the estate, we do not. Our fees depend on the amount of time it is likely to take to bring your case to a satisfactory conclusion and the level of seniority required from our staff to do so. In some instances, it will be possible for us to quote a fixed fee for the administration of the estate at the outset but where it is not possible to do so, we will set out the basis of our charges in as clear and as transparent a way as possible, as is always required in accordance with our obligations under section 150 of the Legal Services Regulatory Act 2015.