5-minute guide to probate

5-minute guide to probate

What is probate?

Probate is the process of administering a person's estate after their death. It's also used to describe the process of determining who is legally entitled to administer a will in the first place.

Who sorts it out?

Usually the executor named in the deceased's will or an appointed solicitor. It's important to check with your chosen executor in advance that they'll be happy to deal with your estate, rather than just naming someone in your will. "An executor can't just stop if it gets too much, they have to see it through," says Danny Cox at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Tip: Find a solicitor via The Law Society's online search facility here or call 020 7320 5650.

What if the person died intestate or didn't name an executor

Then an administrator will be appointed to arrange probate - usually a nearest relative to the deceased.

What is the Grant of Representation?

This is a legal document (also known as Grant of Probate) issued by the Probate Registry that gives an executor the authority to deal with the estate -  property, money and other possessions - of a deceased person. It's only needed if the deceased has left an estate of £5,000 or more.

Can you apply for probate yourself?

"Yes, although some people prefer to use a solicitor," says Ian Gosling of online will-writing service Affio."You can get an application form from your nearest Probate Registry, or call the HMRC Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on 0300 123 1072."

How much does this cost?

HM Courts Service charges a £215 fee to issue the grant of representation and extra official copies are available for a small charge.

Tip: Probate expenses should be paid from the deceased's estate.

Organisations will require an official version of the grant of probate

Who needs to see this?

"Organisations will require an official version of the grant of probate so they can release any proceeds into the executorship account," says Danny. " Photocopies are unlikely to be acceptable, so get several official copies."

How long does the probate process take?

"It can take a few weeks or as much as a year," says Ian. "It depends on the size of the estate, whether there's a will, inheritance tax calculations, tracking down relatives and beneficiaries - and the overall state of the deceased's financial affairs."

Step-by-step guide to probate

  1. Complete the Probate Application Form
  2. Complete an inheritance tax form (even if you think no tax is owed)
  3. Send the application form to the Probate Office
  4. Swear an oath
  5. The Grant is issued within 10 working days.

Is the process different in Scotland and Northern Ireland?

In Scotland the process of administering an estate is similar to England but the court’s authority is known as a Certificate of Confirmation, rather than Grant of Probate. You can find out more about the process here.

The process is known as Grant of Probate in Northern Ireand and there's more useful information here.

  •  It's much easier for executors to handle an estate if a will's in place. Yours Retirement Services can help you make a will. Find out more here or call 0808 156 9012.