In our weekly legal column, the Leader, with the expert advice of the team at GHP Legal, sets out to answer some of your problems. Today's question is answered by partner Ulia Choudhry...

What is Probate and do we need a solicitor to get it?

Q: Our dad has died. It's the first death we have dealt with. We have registered his death and we have a handwritten Will he wrote when he knew he was dying, leaving everything equally to me, my sister and two brothers. We plan to sell his house, but my mate says we can't do anything until we have got probate. What exactly is probate? Do we need a solicitor or can we do it ourselves?

A: Probate is a term used to describe the legal and financial processes regarding the disposal or sharing out of property, money and possessions (known as assets) of someone who has died. Probate validates a Will if there is one and confirms who can administer the deceased's estate. Probate must be granted before the next of kin or named executor can claim, transfer, sell or distribute any of the deceased's assets. As your father left a Will, you will need to obtain a grant of probate before you can access his bank accounts, sell his assets and settle his debts.

The probate process can involve complex legal, tax and financial work, hence why executors and next of kin often engage the services of a solicitor to handle it. Firstly, the value of the estate must be determined by identifying all assets and liabilities, and the beneficiaries of the Will must be verified. Secondly, if there is an Inheritance Tax liability, that must be paid before applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Representation that gives legal authority to administer the estate.

When a Grant of Probate has been issued, assets such as the deceased's house can be sold and liabilities for the estate settled, including paying any further Inheritance Tax, Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax that is due. Finally, the estate accounts must be prepared and distributed to the beneficiaries, and then the balance of the estate can be distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will.

This question has been answered by Ulia Choudhry, a Partner with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, please visit our website and use the contact us form, or call us on: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194.