What is probate?

What is probate

This page was last updated on 1 October 2021

What Is Probate In 2021?

This article explains the key aspects of probate and help you understand whether it will apply to you.

Topics that you will find covered on this page

You can listen to an audio recording of this page below.

What exactly does probate mean?

Probate is the process of sorting out who gets what after someone dies. This includes sorting out all their financial and physical assets and distributing them amongst beneficiaries.

Probate

This term is confusingly used both to refer to the process of administration, and the legal document that appoints executors.

Here is a short video explaining how probate works.

Key definitions of terms used in Probate

Executor

The person named in the will who is responsible for dealing with the assets.

Administrator

Someone who is responsible for handling the assets, such as where there is no will or the executor is not willing to act. This is generally a family member.

Estate

All of the deceased’s property and assets. This can include money, money owed to them, their property, shares and any other personal possessions.

Beneficiary

Someone who gets an inheritance from the will, generally as named in the will. A beneficiary has legal rights that the executor has to abide by.

Contentious Probate

Contentious probate is where there is any dispute over the administration of the deceased’s estate, generally between beneficiaries, including deciding what the will means or the value of assets.

 

When is probate necessary?

Whenever an executor deals with someone’s estate. However, there are a number of situations where probate is not needed:

  • The value of the estate is less than £10,000 and does not include land or shares
  • Property or money is jointly owned with a spouse or civil partner

 

If you are not sure if you need probate, you can get advice from HMRC:

How much money can you have in the bank before probate?

Sometimes, where an estate is small, a grant of probate is not needed.

It is worth asking the bank whether you need a grant of probate to release the money in the account, because they have ultimate discretion.

"If the deceased person left a will, and appointed an executor, the executor will need to get a 'grant of probate' to have authority to administer the person's estate and their assets for the beneficiaries."

Can I do probate myself?

An executor can take personal responsibility for the probate process or appoint a professional service.

Appointing professional services can be a good idea where there is a particularly complicated estate.

How do you get legal authority to administer someone’s estate if you are named in the will?

If the deceased person left a will, and appointed an executor, the executor will need to get a ‘grant of probate’ to have authority to administer the person’s estate and their assets for the beneficiaries. 

Getting this is sometimes referred to as ‘probate,’ and once you have got this, you are an executor.

How else can you get the authority to administer someone’s estate?

In some circumstances, you can deal with someone’s estate even if you are not named in the will. If there is not a will, then the next of kin will need to apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration.’

If there is a will, you can apply if the deceased left their whole estate to you, or the executors are not named or will not accept the role. If the letters of administration are granted, you are called an administrator.

How to get a ‘grant of probate’ or ‘letters of administration’?

There are three main steps to apply for probate:

1 – Complete the probate application

In England and Wales, if there is a will complete a PA1P form. If there is not a will, complete a PA1A form. Also, you must submit an inheritance tax form to HMRC.

2 – Send off the form to your local probate registry

You must send all the details and the death certificate to the probate registry. This can be done online if you have the original will and death certificate have already reported the value of the estate, and your home address is in England or Wales.

If you do this, you must send your documents by post after you submit the online application.

3 – Statement of truth

This will be required at some point during your online or postal application.

What responsibilities do the executor or administrator have before they get probate or letters of administration?

This depends on the instructions in the will and what is in the estate. As a guide, the probate process involves:

  • Find all the person’s financial and legal documentation.
  • Provide the death certificate to any organisation that holds the deceased’s money including the bank. You must ask them to freeze the person’s account and ask them to see the content of their accounts and the income the person received in the year before they died.
  • Open a new bank account for the estate.
  • Find out who the people are who owe the estate debts, and who the estate owes debts to, including insurance companies and the state.
  • Work out and take stock of everything in the estate.
  • Work out how much inheritance tax needs to be paid to the state and how this will be done.
  • Sort the documents required by the probate registry and HMRC.
apply for probate

What are the responsibilities of the executor after getting probate or letters of administration?

Once the process of applying for probate is done, the next steps are to:

  • Collect the financial assets that banks, insurance companies, pension funds and building societies have which belong to the estate
  • Pay debts, expenses and fees  due by the deceased  (including the probate fees for legal services where required)
  • Distribute the property among beneficiaries, following the details in the will

What do I need to do about taxes?

HMRC require the executor to submit an IHT form to HMRC to see if by law the estate must pay inheritance tax, after the executor has submitted their probate application.

If the estate is worth less than £325,000, use the form IHT205, if it is worth more, use IHT400. If inheritance taxes are due, they must be paid within 6 months and must occur before the grant is issued to you.

Can I contest whether a will is valid?

Yes, if you think it does not represent the person’s intentions or is not valid for any other reason. This includes where:

  • The deceased did not have the mental capacity
  • The deceased was under undue influence
  • The will is forged
  • You financially depended on the deceased and the will doesn’t deal with your needs- by law the deceased is required to provide for this. 

Is it worth using the services of a probate specialist?

While in most cases it is possible to deal with the probate process perfectly well yourself, some people may want to appoint a probate specialist or seek probate advice.  This is especially for cases that are particularly complex or if you are unsure about the laws applying to the estate and beneficiaries.

A probate specialist could be either an accountant or a solicitor, and will charge a fee for their services.

A probate specialist can also help speed up the process, as probate can take up to 12 months.

How can I get more advice?

It may be worth sending an email or calling a solicitor or another probate service to get a guide on their fees, take advice, and improve your knowledge of the area. There is also a large number of websites and services offering advice on probate, tax, and the relevant laws.

 

Would you like some help with the Probate process?

You can contact us in one of 3 ways:

  • Option 1 – Call us directly on – 0333 567 1608
  • Option 2 – Book an appointment directly in the calendar below, and one of the team will call you back at the chosen time
  • Option 3 – Leave us your contact details and we will get in touch

 

Option 1 – Call directly to discuss your probate support needs

Our lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, you can call us at any time that suits you.

Option 2 – Book an appointment, in the calendar below, for a Probate specialist to call you back when its convenient

Option 3 – Leave us your details and we will get in touch

Leave your contact details below and one of the team will give you a call to discuss your needs.

Please note that all calls are undertaken by Trust Inheritance, one of the UK’s leading probate specialists.

Article author

Katy Davies

I am a keen reader and writer and have been helping to write and produce the legal content for the site since the launch.   I studied for a law degree at Manchester University and I use that theoretical experience, as well as my practical experience as a solicitor, to help produce legal content which I hope you find helpful.

Outside of work, I love the snow and am a keen snowboarder.  Most winters you will see me trying to get away for long weekends to the slopes in Switzerland or France.

Email – katy@helpandadvice.co.uk

LinkedIn – Connect with me

More important topics related to Probate

When Is Probate Required?

Probate is necessary for most aspects of estate administration. Probate will normally be required for distributing the property and assets among beneficiaries where it was owned solely by the person who died.  This article will help expallain what happens in different circumstances.

How Long Does Probate Take?

In general, probate takes between six to twelve months.  However, many factors affect how long the probate process is, meaning without knowing the circumstances of the individual case, asking how long probate will take can like asking how long is a piece of string. This article will walk you through the process.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the process of sorting out who gets what after someone dies. This includes sorting out all their financial and physical assets and distributing them amongst beneficiaries. This article will help you learn more about the process and what is required.

Dealing With Contentious Probate

Contentious probate includes a variety of disputes, including a dispute over whether a will or codicil is valid, such as when you think there has been undue influence or the deceased person lacked capacity. However, there can be many reasons and this article sets out what you can do to challenge a probate process.

How To Find a Probate Specialist

After the death of a family member or loved one, you may find yourself responsible for managing the estate of the deceased person. This is why you may want to use a probate specialist to help you. This article will help you find a specialist to help you.

Probate Costs and Fees

The cost of probate varies, depending on the estate and who handles the process. The cost of probate has two main components; fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are essentially the application fee. This article sets out the different costs involved of doing it yourself or using a probate soliciutor or specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does probate mean?

Probate is the process of sorting out who gets what after someone dies. This includes sorting out all their financial and physical assets and distributing them amongst beneficiaries.

Can you do probate yourself?

An executor can take personal responsibility for the probate process or appoint a professional service.

Appointing professional services can be a good idea where there is a particularly complicated estate.

How can you get the authority to administer someone’s estate?

In some circumstances, you can deal with someone’s estate even if you are not named in the will. If there is not a will, then the next of kin will need to apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration.’

Can you contest whether a will is valid?

Yes, if you think it does not represent the person’s intentions or is not valid for any other reason. 

 

Would you like some help with the Probate process?

You can contact us in one of 3 ways:

  • Option 1 – Call us directly on – 0333 567 1608
  • Option 2 – Book an appointment directly in the calendar below, and one of the team will call you back at the chosen time
  • Option 3 – Leave us your contact details and we will get in touch

 

Option 1 – Call directly to discuss your probate support needs

Our lines are open Monday to Friday – 9:00 to 5:00

Option 2 – Book an appointment, in the calendar below, for a Probate specialist to call you back when its convenient

Option 3 – Leave us your details and we will get in touch

Leave your contact details below and one of the team will give you a call to discuss your needs.

Please note that all calls are undertaken by Trust Inheritance, one of the UK’s leading probate specialists.

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