What is a caveat?
A caveat is a written notice that is lodged with the Probate Registry.
Having filed one, the Court is unable to make a grant of probate (a key step in the probate process) without first telling the person who makes it (known as the caveator) and allowing him or her to make a representation as to why probate should not be granted.
When is a caveat used?
A caveat is used to give someone time to gather supporting evidence to be able to make the case as to why a grant of probate should be made.
For example, you might submit one if you believe that a will is not valid or that the executors should not be the people to administer the estate.
This might be the case if:
- the will is not the last one made
- the person who made the will was not sound of mind (lacked mental capacity)
- the will was signed under duress
- two or more of the nominated executors dispute which of them should be appointed
- In other words, submitting a caveat buys time before an estate can be distributed.
Be aware that if the executors do challenge your caveat (by issuing what is called a warning) you should have a valid reason for having entered it. If not, the executors might start contentious probate proceedings against you, which could result in an order for costs being made against you by the Probate Registry.
Entering a caveat
Any person over the age of 18 may submit a caveat, either personally or through a solicitor.
The form to submit is the PA8A form. It can be downloaded from Gov.UK.
It is important that the deceased person is properly identified so that the grant against his or her name is prevented from being made. The information that should be given should be the same as on the death certificate, including the last permanent address.
The form should be posted to the Probate Registry (by registered post to ensure that it arrives) or given in person. In addition, a fee is payable (by cheque).
It is obviously better to enter one as soon as possible after the death.
After the caveat has been entered
A caveat remains in place for six months from the date it is entered. It can be extended for a further six months for a fee. It can also be removed at any time by writing to the Registry.
When the executors apply for a grant of probate, they will be told that the caveat is in place, and who the caveator is.
Executors are recommended to contact the caveator to resolve the issue and have the caveat removed.
If an executor does issue a warning to start the process of removal, then the caveat may be defended by submitting what is known as an appearance.