There are two ways to die in the UK; with a Will, and without a Will. If you are clever, you would choose the former. There is never a time when planning to die without a Will makes sense. But whether or not you have a Will makes a difference when it comes to the probate process.
If you have a Will, you will have named an “Executor“. This person has the responsibility to gather and secure your assets, and then distribute them according to the instructions in the Will. They also have responsibility to carry out all of the paperwork associated with your “estate” (everything that you owned when you died).
Imagine the day after you have died. Your Executor goes to your bank and explains to the bank cashier that they are your Executor, and that you would like all of the money from the account. The Executor may even have a Will.
Imagine the cashier obliges, and hands over the £50,000.
The next day, somebody else arrives at the bank, but they have a different Will, which names them as the Executor, and they want the contents of the bank account. Their Will is signed and dated after the other Will.
This person had already secured the money from a Building Society account across the other side of town.
It is this type of mess that is avoided by the probate process.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process by which your Will is accepted as your official, legal Last Will and Testament. It is an opportunity for people to challenge that Will. It is also the process by which your estate administrator is appointed, either as the Executor named in your Will, or as an administrator nominated by the courts if there is no Will. This person is given a court issued document that gives them the authority to act as your estate administrator.