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Probate and Administration

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Probate and Administration

Postby johnjoyes » Fri Jul 26, 2019 4:57 pm

The new low fees announced for copies of wills is great news, but I think I must be simple. Can someone please explain to me what should be obvious. I can't find any of my ancestors listed in the calendar.
I thought that if someone didn't leave a will, then administration would be granted to someone, and this would apply to every living being, so everybody should be listed in the calendar. Clearly this is not the case. So what are the defining factors for being listed, or not ? Is it a wealth thing?
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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby AdrianB38 » Fri Jul 26, 2019 5:53 pm

It depends....

Someone's possessions after their death are referred to as their estate. So straight away for much of recorded history that excludes married women because they didn't have any estate because all their possessions belonged to their husband. For anyone else, and for married women after whatever date it was, their estate was split into real estate and moveable estate. Real estate was pretty much what you imagine it to be - property - and need not concern most of us. It's worth mentioning though, because sometimes the values of estates for probate purposes exclude the real estate so you don't get the right idea of the total estate from the Probate Calendar.

Moveable is the rest.

Whoever gets the job of administering the estate might need authority to do so - Letters of Administration. But, I believe that I am right in saying that there has never been a minimum value of an estate beyond which Letters of Administration are needed. Instead it seems to have always been, and even now, is up to the organization holding the assets or money or whatever to decide whether to hand the assets over on the basis of the death certificate only, or whether to require legally agreed probate. It's not worth anyone's while requiring probate for 2 shillings and 8 pence in an account but the exact figure at which they do, seems up to them.

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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby junkers » Mon Jul 29, 2019 9:12 pm

Having a will does not necessarily mean it should be 'proved' in a probate court if it was under a certain figure, I think £10,000 was a fairly recent level for 'proving'.
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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Jul 30, 2019 6:23 am

I think that the limit varies from organization to organization. So I assume that it always has. For instance this is from the Citizens' Advice Bureau in England and Wales:
"Some banks and building societies will release quite large amounts without the need for probate or letters of administration. Also some banks and building societies will release money needed to pay for a funeral, probate fees and inheritance tax but nothing else until you have been granted probate or letters of Administration".

It may be that lots of banks work round similar limits of course and £10k might indeed be a popular value.

Other countries, of course, may be totally different - I have no idea about Scotland for instance, given that it has its own legal system.

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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby ksouthall » Wed Jul 31, 2019 1:13 am

Here's a useful tip, based on personal experience of ordering probate records.

If Letters of Administration are granted and the grantee is named in the Probate Calendar, you may not get any additional information by ordering the probate record.
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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby AdrianB38 » Wed Jul 31, 2019 6:32 am

Good point. Unless it's "Letters of Administration with Will Attached" because that means that there was a will (which I presume you get a copy of) but all the named executors are either unable or unwilling to do their job. So someone else is appointed to carry out the terms of the will - hence the will is still crucial.

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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby ksouthall » Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:08 am

AdrianB38 wrote:Good point. Unless it's "Letters of Administration with Will Attached" because that means that there was a will (which I presume you get a copy of) but all the named executors are either unable or unwilling to do their job. So someone else is appointed to carry out the terms of the will - hence the will is still crucial.


Good point, Adrian. I'd forgotten about that possibility as I haven't come across those yet in my family tree.
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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby johnjoyes » Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:17 pm

Thanks to all those who responded, but I'm still not sure it answers my query: If it is not listed in the calendar, does that mean the person died intestate ? Or does it mean that the affairs of that person were simply not of interest to the authorities, so the Will probably hasn't survived ?
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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby AdrianB38 » Thu Aug 08, 2019 10:02 pm

johnjoyes wrote:... I'm still not sure it answers my query: If it is not listed in the calendar, does that mean the person died intestate ? Or does it mean that the affairs of that person were simply not of interest to the authorities, so the Will probably hasn't survived ?


1. To be clear (and the danger with saying "To be clear" is that I might confuse you!) To be clear, if someone is in the calendar, they still might have died intestate - in that case, the entry will show that letters of administration were granted.

2. If there is no entry in the calendar, then as far as the government authorities were concerned, they died intestate. Any will or estate notified to the authorities will appear in the calendar (OK, apart from the ones that fell down the back of the radiator). As far as I know from reading stuff (and having done probate), there is no mechanism for the authorities to say, "Yes, fine, thanks but we're not interested..."

3. If there is no entry in the calendar then it is still possible that a will was made but in this case nobody bothered with getting probate for it. Maybe there were only a few items and the family disposed of the stuff between themselves. Maybe there were just a few shillings in a savings bank and the cashiers let the family have the money just on production of a death certificate - as I said, it was very much up to them what limit they applied.

But frankly, if there is no entry in the calendar then gut feeling says that there probably wasn't a will and any items were disposed of by the family between themselves or by cashiers giving out the money just on the evidence of a death certificate.
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Re: Probate and Administration

Postby Mick Loney » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:24 am

If a person’s real estate was in their name only, probate must be applied for in order to transfer the deeds of property to another party.
If no real estate was involved, ( or was in joint names) and the person’s estate was below a certain limit, the executor could carry out his duties without applying for probate. This was the case with my father, as executor, I was able to carry out the instructions contained in the will without need for applying for probate.
So in this case, a will was written, but does not appear in probate records because probate wasn’t applied for.
So to answer johnjoyes question, absence of entry in probate calendar does not mean person died intestate!
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