What is a caveat?
A caveat is a legal document that details a warning that a set of specific stipulations, conditions or limitations have been put in place.
In relation to probate, a caveat is a notice that certain actions cannot be taken without the person who has placed it (the Caveator) being informed. It is used to prevent further administrative actions being taken until any disputes have been resolved.
What affect does it have on an application for probate?
A caveat will stop an application for a grant of probate from going ahead for a period of 6 months. This means that if an application is made to the probate office it will not be granted until the caveat is lifted. The estate cannot be administered whilst this restriction is in place.
Why would a caveat be placed on an estate?
There are many reasons why a caveat may be placed on an estate. These reasons will revolve around a dispute. Restrictions can be placed on a estate when;
- There are disputes over who is entitled to apply for a grant of probate
- There are disputes over the existence of a Will
- There are disputes about the Validity of a Will e.g. Where there are concerns that the testator was coerced, threatened or manipulated or that the deceased was not the writer of the Will.
- There are concerns about the testator’s capacity to have written the Will e.g. They may not have had mental capacity.
- The executor refuses to provide a copy of the Will to persons entitled to see it.
- There are concerns that fraudulent activity has taken place
Restrictions are placed on the estate to prevent a grant being issued and assets being collect prior to any disputes being resolved.
How do you enter a caveat?
Anyone can submit a request to the probate registry as long as they are over the age of 18. This means you can do it yourself or use a solicitor or other licensed professional.
You must complete the Form PA8A: Caveat application in order to place a caveat. You will need to know the full name of the deceased, their date of death and their last address of residence.
You can write to or visit any probate registry to submit your application and must pay a fee of £20.
How long does a caveat last?
Once a caveat has been entered it is enforced for 6 months. However, there are no limitations on how many times it can be extended.
What happens when a caveat is placed on an estate?
When a caveat is placed on an estate it stops any further progress being made. A grant will not be issued until the restriction has been removed. There are 3 ways to have a caveat removed.
- The person who placed the caveat (the Caveator) withdrawing it themselves
- By a court order for removal of a caveat
- The caveat lapses
The person applying for a grant of probate may choose to wait for 6 months until the caveat expires in hopes that the person who submitted the original application fails to extend it.
If the reasons for submitting are deemed to be unjust or unreasonable the probate applicant (executor or ultimate beneficiaries) are able to issue a warning (also known as “warning off”) which challenges the caveat. To ensure that the restrictions remain in place the Caveator must “enter an appearance” this is when they state their interest. “Entering an appearance” makes them permanent and can only be removed by a court order.
This leads into contentious probate which can be an extremely emotionally draining and financially expensive option. Before entering a caveat serious consideration and expert legal advice should be taken. If the court believes either side has behaved unreasonably, they could face cost penalties.