A will is a legal document that outlines what one would want to happen after their death in terms of their funeral, care for their children and most important of all, distribution of their estate. When a person dies having drafted their will, they are said to have died testate in legal terms. The opposite of this would be dying intestate. A will usually specifically states the name of an executor, a person entrusted by the testator or testatrix with the task of executing the will after their death. An executor could be a close family member, a relative, trusted friend or even an attorney. An executor is usually referred to as a ‘representative of the estate in probate’ in a will in order to cover executors of both gender.
A will is very important because it makes things a lot easier for the family of a deceased person especially when it comes to estate distribution issues. A will reduces the possibility of disagreement or misunderstanding between family members when trying to figure out the deceased’s death wishes. Administering a will is however not as easy as it may sound. This is because the law requires wills to be validated by a court which could take a couple of months to do. Validation of a will is done by the executor by applying for a Grant of Probate in a probate court.
Probate is the legal process of identifying, validating and distributing the estate of a deceased person under strict court supervision. The probate process includes payment of outstanding debts to creditors and payment of outstanding taxes such as death and inheritance tax. A probate court is a special court that interprets the will and validates any claims on the estate made by third parties such as the creditors of the deceased. The court oversees the probate process right from when the executor files for a grant of probate, up to when it is granted and ownership of the estate is transferred to the beneficiaries.
For the executor of a will to be granted probate, they will have to first present to the probate court registry, the deceased’s will and a solicitor approved oath. The oath shows that the executor is committed to administering the wishes stated by the deceased in the will. The executor named in the will is usually not recognized by the law until the probate court officially appoints them as the representative of the estate in probate.
If a will was properly drafted, it takes the court a shorter time to grant probate. Incase the beneficiaries are not completely satisfied with the court’s decision, probate law allows them to contest the validity of the will in the same court. In such a case the estate remains frozen until the court makes a validity judgment. In the event of intestate death, or if there is no executor is named in a will, the grant of probate is referred to as a ‘Letter of Administration’. It is also acquired through a court process and is issued to the person that the court deems fittest to execute the will or distribute the estate.
A will or probate lawyer is a trained professional that offers legal services to an executor. Such a professional helps the executor with fulfilling the duties assigned to them by the will. A lawyer can be hired to offer advice or represent the executor in a probate court. They can also help with payment of death and inheritance taxes.