When somebody dies their property and finances, known as their ‘Estate’, need to be dealt with. The people that deal with the estate are known as the Personal Representatives or “PR’s”. To be able to act in this role they must send certain documents, including the deceased Will (if they have one), to the Probate Registry. If the probate registry is satisfied with the papers submitted, they will send the PR’s a sealed Grant of Probate if there was a Will or a sealed Grant of Letters of Administration if there was no Will. In either case, the PR’s then have the power to call in the deceased’s assets and pay liabilities. However, if you have concerns about the estate and the Will and wish to prevent the estate being dealt with you should apply for a Caveat.
A Caveat can be used when someone intends to question whether the deceased’s Will is valid. A Caveat can be obtained by completing a simple online form with the Probate Registry, currently at a cost of £3. Once granted, the Probate Registry will not issue a Grant. If the PR’s want to progress the estate administration the Caveat will need to be removed. The most effective, and cheapest way of doing this, is to address your concerns to the person that has entered the Caveat and invite them to remove it by consent.
However, if the dispute between the parties cannot be resolved it leaves the estate ‘on hold’ and in limbo such that the PR’s will need to consider how to take it forward.
If you enter a Caveat, you are known as the ‘Caveator’ and you need to have strong reasons to keep the Caveat in place. If the reason relates to concerns regarding the validity of a Will, it is important to note that there are very limited grounds to challenge which are:
If you want to remove the Caveat so the estate can be dealt with, you can issue a ‘Warning’. Again, this can be obtained online with the Probate Registry, free of charge. The Warning needs to be served on the Caveator. Once they have been served with this Warning, the Caveator will have 14-days to lodge an “Appearance’ at the Probate Registry. The Appearance is a written document outlining the Caveator’s reasons relating to the validity of the Will.
If the Caveator fails to enter the Appearance within the 14-days, the Caveat will be removed, and the PR’s are then able to obtain a Grant.
If an Appearance is entered within the 14-days the Probate Registry cannot issue a Grant without an order from the Court. This will result in either one or both parties having to make a costly probate application to the court, to resolve the matter.
If possible, once the Caveat has been entered, both parties should seek legal advice upon the merits of any potential claim. This will be regarding the validity of a Will and how the estate might be dealt with. This includes the possibility of obtaining a limited Grant which could allow the assets of the estate to be dealt with and not be distributed. This is also known as a Grant Ad Colligenda Bona.