Probate Service caveats

What is a caveat?

A caveat is a procedure to prevent Grant of Representation issuing in an estate.  You may wish to seek legal advice before continuing with entering a caveat. The Probate Registry can not give legal advice.

Further information can also be found in leaflet PA8 How to enter a Caveat.

In what sort of circumstances are caveats used?

It is not possible to give a comprehensive list; but these are a few typical examples:

  • there is some allegation concerning a Will e.g. it is not the last Will, the deceased was not "of sound mind" when it was made, it was not properly signed and witnessed, it has been tampered with in some way. 
  • there is dispute about whether a Will exists 
  • the person intending to apply for a Grant of Representation may not be entitled to do so 
  • there is a dispute between two or more people equally entitled to apply for Grant of Representation 
  • allegations that the person applying for the Grant of Representation is not a "fit and proper" person 

Is a caveat the right thing to do in my particular case?

Registry staff are unable to give advice about whether to enter a caveat, or what subsequent steps should be taken. They can tell customers what procedures are available to them, but cannot advise on the appropriateness of any of these. If you are in any doubt or need any advice, you are recommended to consult a solicitor.

If you simply need to know when Probate has issued, or need a copy or wish to make an Inheritance Act claim, then the caveat procedure is not appropriate: what you require is a "standing search" which will provide you with a copy of the Probate when it issues. Please ask for a copy of the standing search leaflet.

How do I enter a caveat?

You may do this yourself, or through a solicitor. If you are doing it yourself, you can write to, or attend at any Registry (see the Probate Registry Directory PA4), with the information needed, and the fee of £20. Cheques should be made payable to HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

Can I enter a caveat by phone or fax or email?

No.

Does a special form have to be completed?

Not necessarily, a letter is sufficient, so long as it contains all the information needed.

What information is needed? 

  • a signed request, asking for a caveat to be entered 
  • the full name and date of death of the deceased, as recorded in the register of deaths, (in addition, you may also give us any other names used by the deceased).  
  • the last permanent address of the deceased. 
  • your own name and address. This is the address to which any papers or correspondence relating to the caveat will be sent or served upon you. This must be an address in England and Wales.

What happens to this information?

While your caveat remains in force, the information is used to prevent Probate being granted in the estate without you being informed at the address you have given. By comparing caveat records with Probate applications, records relating to the same estate are identified.

Do I need to produce the Death Certificate?

No.

We use the exact information you give us to identify any application for Probate in the estate. People applying for Probate and people entering caveats are both required to give us information from the same source (i.e. the death certificate), to minimise the risk of a caveat not being effective, because of discrepancies in names or dates. You must pay close attention to accuracy in spellings and dates.

Can I change any of the details in my caveat?

Yes, you can do this at any time, by writing to the Probate Registry you entered your Caveat to confirm the changes you require, as soon as you realise that an amendment is needed.

Who can enter a caveat?

Anyone over the age of 18 years can enter a caveat, if you enter it personally, you need to have an address in England or Wales. If you do not live in England and Wales you must give us an address in England and Wales called “an address for service” which is where any papers or correspondence relating to the caveat will be sent or served upon you.  When you have entered a Caveat you are known as the Caveator.
You cannot enter a caveat jointly with another person: where two or more persons wish to enter a caveat, they must do so separately.

How long does a caveat last?

Six months from the date it is entered. In the month before it is due to expire, you may apply to extend it for a further period of six months. It costs a further £20 to extend a caveat.

Is there a reminder towards the end of the six months?

No. If a caveat is not extended it simply expires, but if you wish, you may enter another.

What happens when a caveat stops an application for Grant of Representation?

The person applying for Grant of Representation is informed of your caveat and given your details but you will not be informed of any application for Grant of Representation.

Can I withdraw the caveat?

Yes, you can withdraw it by writing to the Registry (and returning the acknowledgement letter that you were given when it was entered).
However, the Caveat cannot be withdrawn if it has been made permanent by a further Court process, without the permission of a Registrar.

What happens after the Caveat is entered?

This is where matters become more complicated and you are strongly recommended to seek legal advice. The question of costs may arise and there is a possibility that you could become liable to pay not only your own costs but those of the other person as well. The matters mentioned below are dealt with only in the most general of terms. Please bear in mind that Probate staff cannot give you any advice on how you should proceed.

My application for a Grant of Representation is stopped.

You may wish to contact the person who has entered the Caveat to find out why the Caveat has been entered and to possibly reach agreement.  If no agreement can be reached you may wish to consider “Warning” the Caveat.  You must be aware that it will result in either the Caveat being removed or being made permanent.

I am the Caveator.

The person applying for Grant of Representation may issue a "warning" against you. This requires you to formally state your interest in the estate.

You can do this in two ways:

  • either by entering an appearance
  • or requesting a Summons for Directions
If you fail to respond or you respond without sufficient reason, they can apply to have your caveat removed. 

If you respond and enter an appearance or a summons for directions, either of which is accepted, the caveat will remain in force indefinitely or until matters are finally resolved. This is known as a “Permanent Caveat”. 

It is open to either you or the person applying for the Grant of Representation to commence a Probate action (court proceedings) in the estate at any time. 

HM Courts & Tribunals Service

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