“Probate” is a legal term for the Court process of transferring assets out of a deceased person’s name and to that person’s heirs and/or beneficiaries. The difference between the term “heir” and the term “beneficiary” is that an heir is someone that would legally take if a person died without a Will. A person’s spouse, for example, or children (if they have either a split family or pass away without a spouse). A beneficiary is the term used for the person who is legally entitled to receive assets. An heir can be a beneficiary, but sometimes a beneficiary is not an heir. For example, I could sign a Will saying that all of my assets go to charity – the charity would be a beneficiary, but not an heir.
With the coronavirus causing long delays to the process, here are the key points to remember.
Tens of thousands of bereaved families who have lost loved ones to coronavirus are dealing with the financial procedures that follow a death – called probate – but are encountering a system hit by delays and bureaucracy.
It usually takes about three to four months to sort out probate, which is essentially identifying the dead person’s assets, paying off any debts and sharing out the remaining estate according to the will.
Solicitors are warning, however, that even simple estates are taking months longer than normal to sort out. At the height of lockdown some solicitors were unable to access their offices to get physical wills, while obtaining details of