What is Probate and How Does it Work?

Ruth Wijay
Ruth Wijay
Head of Wills, Probate & Trusts

When someone close to you dies, on top of dealing with the grief of losing them, you might also have to sort out the property, money and possessions that they’ve left behind. This process is called Probate.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process that authenticates a person’s Will and confirms who has authority to deal with and distribute the deceased person’s assets, or their estate as it’s commonly known. If you’re their next of kin or if you’ve been named as an Executor of the Will, then this is a responsibility that will usually fall on your shoulders.

When is Probate Needed?

There are no clear guidelines that establish when Probate is and isn’t needed. But Probate is usually required:

  • if the person who has died has left property or assets in their name that are worth over £5,000, or;
  • if the bank or other financial institutions have asked you for a Grant of Probate before allowing you access to the deceased’s financial accounts. More on that in the next section.
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What is the Probate Process?

Depending on the complexity of the estate your loved one left behind, the Probate process can either be relatively straightforward or incredibly complicated.

This is a general overview of the steps you might have to take during the Probate process.  

Process of Probate

  1. Value the Estate

    The first step in the Probate process is to establish exactly what assets and debts the deceased person has left behind. This will help determine the total value of their estate on the day that they died. You’ll need to contact all the relevant financial organisations and businesses to find this information out.

  2. Submit an Inheritance Tax Return

    Once you know the value of the estate, you’ll then be able to fill out and submit an Inheritance Tax Return (IHT). This will tell HMRC how much the estate is worth and how much inheritance tax you need to pay, if any. This will need to be done even if there is no tax to pay.

    It’s worth noting that in most cases inheritance tax must be paid within six months of the death of your loved one.

  3. Apply for a Grant of Probate

    Before you, as an Executor or next of kin, can begin sorting out your loved one’s assets and liabilities, you might need to apply for a Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry. This is a legal document that will authorise your access to the deceased person’s financial accounts and sell any property.

    A Grant of Probate can only be issued if there’s a Will. If there is no Will, then you’ll need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration to get this access. 

  4. Pay Debts and Distribute Assets

    Once the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration has been issued, you’ll be able to start cashing in and/or selling any assets, settling any debts of the estate. Once you’ve paid off all debts, the rest can be distributed according to what’s written in the Will. 

How Long Does Probate Take?

The amount of time it takes to complete the Probate process depends on how big or how complicated the estate is. On average though, most cases complete within six to twelve months, but some can take several years.

How We Can Help With Probate

Nothing is stopping you from going through the Probate process on your own. But Probate can often be a tough, emotional and lonely time. And, as we’ve already established, it can also be a tricky process, especially if the estate you’re dealing with is big and complex.

If you’d like some legal help and support throughout the Probate process, give us a call for a free, no-obligation chat. 

We understand that people need different things from us during Probate, so we’ve created two different Probate services that you can choose from, depending on the level of support you need: 

Full Probate Service - If you choose our Full Probate Service, we’ll take care of everything for you throughout the entire Probate process, including:

  • dealing with banks and other financial institutions;
  • valuing the assets in the estate;
  • applying for a Grant of Probate;
  • paying any debts and collecting any money owed to the estate;
  • preparing estate accounts;
  • distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.

Grant of Probate Application Only Service - If you choose the Grant of Probate Application Only Service, our team of specialist Probate Solicitors will take care of all the administration involved with applying for a Grant of Probate. This includes:

  • completing the application form for the Grant of Probate;
  • completing the Inheritance Tax forms;
  • submitting the Grant of Probate application to the Probate Registry.

If you don’t know which service to choose from, get in touch on the number below. We’ll talk through your situation and decide which option would work best for you. 

For free legal advice call our Probate Solicitors

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