Probate Service caveats
What is a Caveat?
A caveat is a procedure to prevent Probate issuing in an estate, without giving the caveator (the person who enters the caveat) the opportunity to liaise with the person applying for Probate, or to make representations to the Court about the matter.
In what sort of circumstances are caveats used?
It is not possible to give a comprehensive list; a caveat is often used to create a "breathing space" to enable the caveator to make enquiries to determine whether there are grounds to oppose an application for Probate, or to bring matters in relation to the estate before the Court: 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 Probate may not be entitled to do so
- there is a dispute between two or more people equally entitled to apply for Probate
- allegations that the person applying for the Probate 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, 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), 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?
No; we must have a written request, and the £20 fee.
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.
You do not need to produce the death certificate.
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.
Why do I need to go to the trouble of finding out the details on the death certificate?
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. When checking Probate applications against caveat records, we look for identical surnames and first forenames, and close dates of death (i.e. within three days). It is important that you give us the precise name and date of death stated in the death certificate, and pay close attention to accuracy in spellings and dates.
What if my caveat is urgent and I am unable to obtain the information from the death certificate in time, or if the death has not been registered, or has been registered abroad?
We will normally accept whatever information you give us, (however, you must appreciate that your caveat will identify other records in the estate only where the first and last names are identical, to those in a Probate application and where the date of death in your caveat is within three days of the date of death in the application).
Can I change any of the details in my caveat?
Yes, you can do this at any time, by writing to confirm the changes you require, as soon as you realise that an amendment is needed.
When should the caveat be entered?
Once you decide that you want to enter a caveat, you should do so immediately. You should not wait until you think someone has applied for Probate, or is about to apply.
Who can enter a caveat?
Anyone 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.
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 Probate?
The person applying for Probate is informed of your caveat and given your details.
What happens next?
It is up to yourself and the person applying for Probate to make contact with each other, hopefully to resolve any differences, and agree a way forward.
Can I cancel the caveat?
You can withdraw it at any time by writing to the Registry (and returning the acknowledgement letter that you were given when it was entered), provided that an "appearance" (mentioned below) has not been entered. If an appearance has been entered, the caveat may only be withdrawn by order of a Registrar.
What if there is no agreement?
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. If you are acting without a solicitor, and require information about any of these steps you should contact the Registry where the caveat was entered, but please bear in mind that the staff cannot give you any advice on how you should proceed.
The person applying for Probate may issue a "warning" against you. This requires you to formally state your interest in the estate. If you fail to respond, he can apply to have your caveat removed. If you respond and enter an "appearance", the caveat will remain in force indefinitely, until matters are finally resolved.
- either you or the person applying for Probate may issue a summons which will be heard by the District Probate Registrar
- either you or the person applying for Probate may commence a Probate action (court proceedings) in the estate.