Your probate questions answered

We believe that probate is best handled by professionals well-versed in the process. But it’s important that you know what’s going on, so you understand the activity being undertaken on your behalf.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process you have to go through to look after someone’s estate after they’ve died. It’s not always necessary – if a wife dies and leaves everything to her husband, probate may not be necessary. In cases like this, it’s only required if the value of the estate is significant (over £5,000) or if property or shares are left.

What is a Grant of Probate?

When someone dies, the Executor of the Will applies to HM Courts & Tribunals Service for a grant that allows them access to the estate’s assets. Without it, they won’t be able to collect the assets and distribute them as the will requires. You apply for the grant of probate with form PA1.

Is there an estate value at which a Grant of Probate becomes necessary?

The Grant of Probate is required when there’s cash held in the estate over £5,000 or where shares, land or property are left. Financial institutions require the Grant of Probate to release funds, but they may have their own thresholds for when they need one. For example, Santander will allow access to up to £25,000 of the deceased’s estate subject to signing an indemnity form and the Post Office requires probate for sums in excess of £10,000 (values correct at October 2016).

What is a letter of administration?

Letters of Administration can be issued when the deceased has left no will or if a will is left but no Executor is named. Letters of Administration (with will) can also be issued if the Executor of a will is unable or unwilling to apply for a Grant of Probate.

Who can apply for probate?

The Executor named in the deceased’s will should apply for probate. But if they can’t or don’t apply, any beneficiary named in the will can do so, provided they’re over 18. If no will was left, then the next of kin should apply for probate. The next of kin priority order is:

  • husband, wife or civil partner
  • children (including adopted children but excluding step-children)
  • parents
  • brothers or sisters
  • grandparents
  • uncles or aunts
  • if all the above died before the deceased, their children may apply for probate
How long does the probate process take?

This depends on the size and complexity of the estate and numerous other factors. If you’re using a solicitor or probate professional to help you through the process, they should be able to give you an estimate based on their experience of similar cases.

How much does probate cost?

There are costs to probate even if you choose to manage the process yourself. There’s a fee payable to HM Courts and Tribunals Service of £255.00 in all cases where an estate is worth over £5,000 and a nominal fee for obtaining copies of sealed documents.

If you use a probate service like ours, there will be professional costs incurred. Always make sure you get a quote from your provider in advance of them starting any work on your behalf so you know what you’ll be paying. We offer fixed-fee rates, so once we’ve given you a price you know exactly what you’ll need to pay. Our fixed-fee guarantee  also means that if you get quoted a lower price elsewhere, we will beat it.

Do I need to appoint a solicitor to deal with probate?

Not at all. You can apply for probate yourself or appoint someone to help you. Solicitors can help, but specialist probate firms like ours can undertake the same duties and are often significantly cheaper. Take a look at our help and advice area for more details on why solicitors might not be your best choice for probate.

What happens if there’s a caveat that means I can’t proceed with probate?

If probate cannot be issued due to a caveat, it usually means that someone has disputed the will and you enter what’s known as contentious probate.  Such cases can sometimes prove quite troublesome, so we’d advise you give us a call on 020 8017 1029 for an impartial, no-obligation chat about the circumstances and your options.

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