Do I need probate?

The easiest way to find out if you need probate is to take our free interactive questionnaire. Answer questions about the person who’s died, like if they owned any property and who they banked with.

What is probate?

Probate is the official process for dealing with someone's estate after they die. It involves getting a special document (a ‘grant’) from the Court. The grant is the legal authority that lets you handle the assets of the person who has died and give out money to the right people. The grant may be needed to deal with assets like bank accounts, property, shares, pensions and life insurance policies.

You may need a 'grant of probate' or 'grant of letters of administration' depending on your situation. But don't worry, we'll explain more about that later.

What's an estate?

A person's estate is everything they own, like their money, property, belongings and any debts they owe. When someone dies, their estate is what's left behind to take care of or to inherit.

What is the probate registry?

The Probate Registry is part of the Family Division of HM Courts and Tribunals Service. It handles applications for grants of probate and grants of letters of administration. The Probate Registry also maintains records of wills and grants of probate that are available to the public. You can search for a will or grant of probate on the website.

Interactive questionnaire: check if you need probate

We'll start by asking a few questions about the person who’s died, like if they owned any property and who they banked with. If it looks like you'll need probate, we'll tell you straight away.

Understanding the difference: grant of probate vs. grant of letters of administration

When someone dies, their estate needs to be managed and distributed. 

If the person who died left a will, the individuals named as executors in the will usually have the authority to handle the estate right after the person's death. However, sometimes they’ll need an official grant of probate to manage specific assets like property or high value assets.

If the person who died did not have a will, things work a bit differently. In this case, instead of a grant of probate, they may need a grant of letters of administration. This grant appoints someone (usually the closest relative who is due to inherit the estate) as the administrator. Their job is to distribute the assets according to the intestacy rules, as there's no will to follow. The grant of letters of administration gives the administrator the legal authority to begin dealing with the estate.

In simple terms:

  • grant of probate: used when there's a will, and it names the executor or executors

  • grant of letters of administration: used when there's no will, and it appoints administrator(s), often closest relatives, to manage the estate according to the intestacy rules

Get professional support to apply for probate

We offer an essential probate service, where we'll help you get the legal document, and a complete probate service, where you'll get support with the full estate administration.

When is probate needed?

Probate is required after around 50% of deaths in the UK and can be needed whether there is a will or not. Here are two things you can do to try and find out if you need probate:

  1. Work out the value of the estate - If the total value of the estate is less than £10,000, you probably won’t need to apply for probate. This is because banks are more willing to release smaller funds and assets without seeing a formal grant. In some cases, banks and other organisations have been known to release up to £50,000 without seeing a grant. So if you think the estate value is fairly small, check with the specific companies to see what their probate threshold is. 

  2. Find out if the assets are jointly owned - The next thing to find out is how the assets are owned. If all the assets in the estate are jointly owned – such as property, bank accounts and savings – these are likely to automatically pass to the surviving co-owner. This means that you won’t need to apply for probate to deal with these assets, you’ll just need the death certificate.

    However, you may still need to apply for probate if the property was owned jointly as tenants in common, or if there are other solely owned assets within the estate. This may include things like bank accounts, shares, pensions and life insurance policies.

Get a free probate consultation

If you need help working out whether you need to apply for probate, you can speak to one of our probate specialists for free by calling 020 3695 2090. We’ll talk through your situation for a few minutes and offer guidance on the estate you’re dealing with.

How much money can someone leave before probate is required?

The probate threshold in England and Wales can be anywhere between £5,000 and £50,000. This is because every bank and financial organisation has their own rules on how much money they can release before seeing a grant of probate.

We’ve provided a list of probate thresholds from the most popular financial organisations below:

  • Aviva - £50,000

  • Axa - £10,000

  • Bank of Ireland UK - £50,000

  • Bank of Scotland - £50,000 if there’s a will or if the estate is passing to spouse or civil partner, £25,000 if there’s no will and it’s passing to another relative

  • Barclays - £50,000

  • Birmingham Midshires - £50,000

  • Britannia - £50,000

  • Cheltenham & Gloucester - £25,000

  • Co-operative Bank - £50,000

  • First Direct - Decided on a case-by-case basis depending on your relationship to the person who has died

  • Halifax - £50,000

  • HSBC - Decided on a case-by-case basis depending on your relationship to the person who has died

  • Lloyds - £50,000

  • M&S Money - £15,000

  • Nationwide - £50,000

  • NatWest - £50,000

  • NS&I (National Savings & Investments) - £5,000

  • Post Office - £30,000

  • Royal Bank of Scotland - £50,000

  • Sainsbury’s Bank - £25,000

  • Santander - £50,000

  • Skipton Building Society - £30,000

  • Tesco Bank - £50,000

  • TSB - £50,000

  • Virgin Money - £35,000

  • Woolwich - £15,000

  • Yorkshire Building Society - £30,000

Is probate needed to sell a property?

Probate will always be needed to deal with a property that is owned solely by the person who has died. However, when a property is jointly owned, probate might not be needed for transferring ownership to the surviving joint owner. It's important to understand how the property is owned to determine if probate is needed.

If you're unsure about how a property is owned, there are steps you can take:

  1. check the property's title deeds

  2. consult with a solicitor or conveyancer who can conduct a thorough investigation to determine the property's ownership

  3. reach out to the Land Registry who may be able to provide official records confirming how the property is owned

Joint tenants and tenants in common

When multiple individuals own a property, they can hold it as either joint tenants or tenants in common.

Joint Tenants:

  • Each owner has an undivided interest in the property.

  • If one owner dies, their share automatically passes to the surviving owner(s) outside of the estate.

  • Probate is not required to transfer the property share of the person who’s died, as ownership is automatically transferred to the surviving owner(s) on death.

Tenants in Common:

  • Each co-owner owns a distinct share of the property.

  • If one owner dies, their share does not automatically transfer to the surviving owner(s).

  • Probate will likely be required to transfer the property share of the person who has died to their beneficiaries according to their will or under the intestacy rules.

When is probate not needed?

Probate isn’t usually required if the estate is worth less than £10,000. This is because most banks and building societies will release funds under £10,000 without seeing a grant of probate.

Another scenario where probate may not be needed is if most of the assets are jointly owned. This is because assets like joint mortgages and savings accounts automatically pass to the surviving owner.

Applying for probate

Once you’ve worked out that you need probate and built up a good picture of the assets and debts within the estate, you should start your application as soon as possible. HM Revenue and Customs and the Probate Registry can take a little while to approve tax forms and probate applications, so the sooner yours is submitted, the better.

If you choose Farewill to help you apply for probate, you’ll have a choice between two options:

1. Grant of Probate Application

The cheapest option is simply to get the grant of probate or letters of administration. For this, Farewill quotes a fixed-price of just £595 or £1,045 for more complex cases. This is a great choice if the estate is fairly straightforward, or you’ve got the confidence and time to deal with the rest of the process.

2. Complete Probate

If you’re short on time, want more support or feel that the estate is too complex to take on yourself, our Complete Probate (estate administration) service could be a great option for you. This service reduces the burden on you and your family and gives you the assurance that the estate is being dealt with correctly. The Complete Probate service would be a good choice if you’re worried about making mistakes, or if an impartial expert could help avoid family conflict.

Here’s a brief breakdown of what’s included with the Complete Probate service:

  • Contacting third parties about the assets and debts in the estate

  • Completing the application for probateCollecting or transferring assets

  • Paying off debts to include taxes

  • Contacting beneficiaries and ensuring that they receive their inheritance

Our fixed-fee Complete Probate pricing starts from £1,500 and varies on a case-by-case basis depending on the complexity of the estate.

For a free quote, call our dedicated probate specialists today on 020 3695 2090.

Thinking of handling probate yourself?

While managing probate yourself is possible, it's important to recognise the risks involved. DIY probate demands time, effort, and a strong grasp of legal procedures. Mistakes on the probate application could lead to delays with the already backlogged Probate Registry, potentially setting you back months. It’s also worth bearing in mind that any errors that you make during the estate administration process could leave you personally financially liable.

If the estate is going to be taxable, navigating the various inheritance tax reliefs and exemptions requires expertise to ensure the estate's financial interests are protected. Given these complexities, many individuals opt for professional assistance to ensure a smooth and efficient probate process. 

Before proceeding with DIY probate, assess whether you have the necessary time and skills to handle the task effectively.


  • Probate is usually needed if the estate of the person who died is worth more than £10,000. 

  • If most of the assets in the estate were jointly owned – such as a joint mortgage or bank account – probate may not be needed.

If you need help working out if probate is needed, reach out to our dedicated specialists. We're happy to talk you through it. Call us on 020 3695 2090.

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