When there is a dispute over the validity of a Will, a caveat can be placed against a deceased’s estate to prevent a grant of probate from being obtained. The caveat application is made to the Probate Registry with a £3 Court fee and will need to be renewed every six months until the dispute is resolved. A caveat should only be placed against the dispute where there is a genuine concern over the validity of the Will or who the personal representatives should be.
When a caveat is in place, this means that the executors or personal representatives of the estate cannot obtain a grant of probate, which gives them the authority to collect in the assets of the estate and distribute them as per the terms of the Will or the intestacy rules, if no Will exists.
Personal representatives are under a duty to administer and distribute an estate within a reasonable period of time, which is usually expected to be within a year from the date of death unless the estate is more complex. It is likely, however, to take months and in many cases more than a year for the dispute to be resolved.
This can cause problems where it is crucial to collect in and sell estate assets in order to protect their value and to pay liabilities where possible to stop them from increasing due to interest and costs. For example, a good offer could have already been made to purchase the deceased’s home and without a grant, the sale cannot be completed and the same sale price may not be achieved a year or so down the line, by which time the deceased liabilities may have increased significantly due to them remaining unpaid.
Grant Pending Determination of a Probate Claim and Grant Ad Colligenda Bona
In certain circumstances, executors and others, if considered appropriate, can apply for a limited grant.
Several types may be obtained, perhaps the most commonly used are a Grant pending determination of a probate claim or, more generally, a Grant Ad Colligenda Bona, both of which would give the personal representative the authority to protect assets in order to preserve their value. The assets or funds received for them cannot be distributed to the beneficiaries until the dispute is resolved and a full grant of probate or representation is made. Further powers can be expressly added, on the application to the Court if needed as appropriate.
If a personal representative under a limited grant does however distribute any assets or funds to beneficiaries without further authorisation, they risk being personally liable for the funds or assets paid out.
How Nelsons can help
If you are involved in a dispute regarding the validity of a Will or are an executor or personal representative of an estate and you consider there are steps that need to be taken to protect the assets in the estate whilst that dispute is resolved, we can advise whether a limited grant could be of assistance.