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A ‘grant’ means either a grant of probate (where a person has died and left a will), or a grant of letters of administration (where a person has died without leaving a will).
Obtaining a caveat
An applicant who is 18 or over may prevent a grant of representation being issued by a probate registry by lodging a caveat. It lasts six months but may be renewed in the month before it is due to expire. It costs £20 per search and for each renewal. There is no limit to the amount of times a caveat can be renewed provided it has not been challenged in the meantime.
You may complete an application for a caveat using form PA008 a copy of which you can download via hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk
Alternatively, you may apply in person, or by letter, to the local district probate registry.
You will need to provide some information about the deceased (their name, any alternative names they were known by, their date of death and their full address). This information helps the probate registry identify the correct deceased person.
Once a caveat is in place the probate registry will not issue a grant of representation, however, a person who has put a caveat in place (a ‘caveator’) may remove it at any time, providing that it has not been challenged.
Caveats are normally put in place where a dispute exists between parties with an interest in the deceased’s estate; it is best used to give the parties time to investigate a potential claim or settle their dispute. They are not appropriate for every type of probate dispute, and should be used with caution, for the reasons set out below.
Warning off a Caveat
Once in place a caveat may prevent a grant being issued indefinitely, through a series of renewals. This may be potentially harmful to anyone with an interest in having the estate administered. A person with an interest in the estate is therefore entitled to serve the caveator with a warning off notice which requires the caveator to state his contrary interest in the estate and to require the caveator to state the nature of his interest in preserving the caveat.
The Warning Off Notice is a formal court document which starts a formal court process. The completed Notice must be sent to the Leeds District Probate Registry, who will issue it. It must then be ‘served’ on the caveator in accordance with the court rules on service of documents. Once served, the caveator has a limited amount of time to decide what to do from these options:
- Withdraw the caveat. This may be done at any time before the deadline for entering an appearance. Once the caveat is withdrawn, an application for a grant may be made by anyone wishing to administer the estate.
- Enter an appearance.The caveator has eight days from service of the Warning off Notice to enter an appearance, which is a written response in a prescribed form, submitted to the Leeds District Probate Registry. Once an appearance has been entered, the caveat remains in force until a District Probate Judge or Registrar or district judge directs it should be removed, (this almost always occurs as a consequence of the resolution of the dispute).
- Not respond at all. Once the eight day time allowed for a response has expired then the person who caused the Warning off Notice to be served can file an affidavit at the Leeds District Registry, to show that the warning was served on the caveator. Once the affidavit has been filed then the caveat will cease to have effect, and an application for a grant may be made.
- Issue and serve a summons for directions. This must be done within eight days of service of the warning Off Notice and may only be done by a person who has no contrary interest to the person who issued the Warning Off Notice. The summons for directions will then be determined by a Registrar or District Judge, who may or may not, remove the caveat.
How we can help
Whilst obtaining a caveat is a straightforward process, the warning off procedure and the underlying probate dispute can present complex legal problems for both the caveator and those wanting to warn off. There may also be costs consequences in some cases that can trap the unwary. For specialist advice and assistance to assist you to resolve your dispute contact Veronica Howley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0151 522 5774.