How Does a Caveat Affect a Probate Application?

How Does a Caveat Affect a Probate Application?

To manage the affairs of someone who has died, you need to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Representation. Whether you’re an Executor applying for a Grant of Probate or an Administrator applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration, there’s a possibility that you may find yourself faced with a Caveat. A Caveat is a legal notice that suspends the Probate application and restricts Personal Representatives’ (i.e., Executors and Administrators) ability to administer the estate while the Caveat is in place.

Why might someone use a Caveat to stop a Probate application?

The most common reasons why someone may enter a Caveat to prevent Probate are:

  • They have concerns that the personal representative may not have the authority to enter the Grant of Probate or that they may not act in the best interests of the estate.
  • There are doubts as to the legal validity of the Will. This may be due to concerns regarding the mental capacity of the testator at the time they made the Will, undue influence, fraud, disputes over several versions of a Will or disagreements over the existence of a Will.

Only a Personal Representative or individual with an interest in the estate can enter a Caveat with the Probate Registry, either online or by post. This needs to be done relatively quickly as it must be registered before an application for Probate is made. The person entering the Caveat will be informed by the Probate Registry when it has been processed. However, unless they have been told by the Caveator, often the person applying for Probate will not know of the Caveat’s existence until they submit the application.

A Caveat will last for 6 months initially but can be renewed, if necessary, in six-monthly increments. This gives those involved time to conduct investigations into the reason for the Caveat and collect evidence to support their claims. If not renewed, it will lapse after six months and any Probate applications can be processed. It should be noted that entering a Caveat is not to be done lightly and you will need valid reasons for interrupting the Probate process. As soon as it is no longer required, the Caveat should be withdrawn in writing.

What can I do about a Caveat?

You do have some recourse should you suddenly find your Probate application has been rejected as the result of a Caveat being entered. Where possible, the best thing to do initially is to give people time to conduct their investigations. You can then engage with the parties who have lodged the Caveat, or their representatives, to discuss the issue and see if an amicable settlement can be reached. If that is successful, the Caveat can be removed, Probate granted, and the Estate Administration process can continue.

If negotiations fail, you could challenge the Caveat with a formal ‘warning’. The person who entered the Caveat will then have 14 days to respond to the warning by entering what is known as an ‘appearance’. If they fail to respond in time, the Caveat will be removed, and the Grant of Representation can be issued.

However, it’s advisable to get expert legal advice and be very sure that issuing a warning is the right course of action. If the Probate Registry upholds the Caveator’s appearance, the Caveat will be sealed which means it can only be set aside by or with the approval of the courts. This road could lead to contentious litigation and has the potential to leave you on the hook for any costs this may involve.

Guidance from a Probate Specialist

While most people won’t encounter any problems with Caveats, it’s always useful to be forewarned, so you know what to do. As a specialist Probate Extraction and Estate Administration company, Caveat issues are something we come across. You never know what may crop up during the Probate application or Estate Administration process. That’s why it can be helpful to instruct Probate experts from the start. So, when problems occur, you’ve got experienced professionals on your side.

If you’d like to chat to us about our Probate Application Services, Full Executorship, Estate Administration or secure Will storage, we’re here to help. Just fill out our online contact form or call us on 0203 058 2329.

This article is intended to provide information only and does not constitute legal advice. We do not accept any responsibility for any omission or loss as a result of this article.

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Here at Laurelo, we're committed to our clients and their path to probate