It can take up to 12 months to obtain a Grant of Probate. This is the authority of the Court to the Executors to deal with all your property once you have gone, including bank/building society accounts. In a complicated case it might take even longer.
I am thinking of the situation where you are in a marriage or civil partnership and one of you at least is not in a position of ‘financial liquidity’. So the question becomes: ‘How is the survivor to access cash for daily living expenses until the grant of probate?’
There are two types of joint ownership:
– a ‘joint tenancy’ under which each joint tenant has an equal share. On the death of any joint tenant his/her share passes automatically ‘by operation of law’ to the surviving joint tenant(s) and if more than one in equal shares.
– a ‘tenancy in common’ under which the share of any so-called ‘tenant in common’ is an asset owned which can be specifically given by Will or indeed by lifetime gift. Shares under a tenancy in common can be unequal.
In either case, the value of the interest in the property is an asset, the value of which must be ascertained and included for probate purposes. Of course, if the survivor is a spouse or civil partner of the deceased, there will be an exemption from Inheritance Tax.
So, given that you never know who is going to go first, the simplest thing to do is for the ‘richer’ one to create a joint bank account on which either of you can draw now (and the survivor after the first death), with enough money in it from time to time to last from death until probate is granted.
Some couples will be doing this anyway, perhaps blissfully unaware of the advantages on the first death. But for all couples in appropriate circumstances it is something well worth thinking about.