Should funds be released without a Grant of Probate?

A recent discussion on LinkedIn highlights the need for solicitors and probate practitioners to be vigilant when acting with banks and other professionals.

Andy Riddle, Managing Director of Professional Deputies; a firm that manages the property and financial affairs of vulnerable adults, posted a discussion within the LinkedIn Wills and Estate Planning UK group to say that:

“One of our clients has passed – no Will and an estate of £33K. The solicitor dealing with the administration of the estate has requested that we transfer said funds to him without a Grant of Probate. I questioned this and was told it is not necessary in this instance. I don’t know whether the solicitor is trying to pull a fast one by looking to do less work or not, and would appreciate members views on this query.”

Of course the rules are quite specific and state that if anyone dies owning more than £5,000, a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration are required.

With 23 comments, there was a general consensus that a Grant should be produced prior to releasing funds, not least for protection against a potential claim from a person entitled to the estate, as only a Grant can prove entitlement to assets. Therefore, funds transferred without a Grant are transferred without evidence of entitlement.

Surprisingly, although the commentators all agreed that a Grant should be produced, many stated that banks do not always require one, and many will transfer funds upon sight of a death certificate only; with figures of between £5,000 – £25,000 being quoted. One commentator said that Barclays will release funds of up to £30,000 without a Grant.

One solicitor commented that he was dealing with an estate with the firm being the sole executor and where the residuary estate had not been left to the widow, but the bank had almost released a £15,000 balance to her.

Ultimately it is a decision based on risk, but the rules exist to protect everyone, and with a potential claim being made by any beneficiaries against the party releasing the funds, it is best practice not to release funds without a Grant when the circumstances dictate that one is required.

What do you think? Would you be prepared to release funds without sight of a Grant of Probate? If so, up to what value would you be prepared to release and to whom?

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