Thank you for your request and question.
Yes, this is perfectly normal once a person has passed away the personal representatives (ie. the executors) are the persons to whom someone should refer a request dealing with any items owned/held for on behalf of the deceased.
The solicitor in question can only released the deeds to the PRs or to another person if he has the PR's authority for this. The grant of probate is the evidence that the persons purporting to be the PRs are in fact the PRs of the deceased.
The executors will deal with the transfer of the property to your sister-in-law because they are those empowered to deal with the administration of her estate (ie. assets) and your sister in law should refer directly to them. She will not be able to transfer the property without their consent and a grant of probate will be required for this.
It's quite common for beneficiaries to be eager to realise their inheritance but they cannot do so without the executors administering the estate and for this they would require a grant of probate.
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She can produce a copy of the Will to the solicitors showing her as being the executer. This may be sufficient for them (but unlikely) but to be certain a grant should be obtained - a person could produce an earlier version of a Will to the solicitor listing another person as executor after all, having a grant of probate gives the solicitor security in releasing the documents.
If this property is registered then you can download a copy of the register for the title from the Land Registry by paying a £4.00:-
Having a registered title that the Land Registry has replaced what were previously referred to as the "Deeds" to the property. This will allow you to prepare the transfer document in readiness for the grant of probate.
It may be that the solicitor just holds historic and irrelevant documents if the title has not been registered. But as executor you should nevertheless check once probate has been obtained.
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Okay, the executor should just take one of the certified copies of the grant of probate to the solicitor and ask for the deed. They will require the executor to verify their identity by producing their passport/driving licence as well as evidence of their proof of address.
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