Unlocking someone's estate with probate

What is probate?

Probate (short for ‘a grant of probate’) is a legal document that shows banks, the Land Registry and other organisations that you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate. The process of getting probate usually takes 1-3 months.

Contents
  1. Probate meaning
  2. What is a grant of probate?
  3. Probate process explained
  4. What is a grant of letters of administration?
  5. What's the difference between probate and full estate administration?
  6. Summary

Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things any of us will ever have to go through, and applying for probate is a huge part of that. But before starting your application, it’s important to understand the meaning of probate, the key steps involved and the various documents you may need to apply for.

Probate meaning

Probate is a legal document that’s needed after around 50% of deaths in the UK. It’s used to show banks, the Land Registry and other organisations that you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate.

What is a grant of probate?

A grant of probate is an official court document that proves you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate. If the person whose estate you’re dealing with had a will and you’re the executor, you may need to apply for a grant of probate to access their estate. Once this has been approved, you’ll be free to sell property, pay off debts, close accounts and distribute assets in accordance with the will.

Probate process explained

The process of getting probate usually takes 1-3 months. It can then take a further 3-6 months to deal with the estate, but this can be quicker if there's no property that needs to be sold.

Here’s a breakdown of the key steps in the probate process:

Step 1: Checking whether you need probate

Probate is only needed after 50% of deaths in the UK, so the first thing you need to do is find out if you need it.

Probate is usually needed if:

  • The total value of the estate is worth more than £10,000
  • The estate includes a number of solely-owned assets

To find out if you need probate, you can read our full guide on when probate is required.

Step 2: Gathering up information about the estate

Once you know you need probate, you should track down the will (if there is one) and make a list of your loved one’s assets. This includes things like:

  • Property
  • Bank accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Pensions
  • Life insurance
  • Stocks and shares
  • Debts
  • Any gifts given in the last 7 years

You’ll then need to contact the banks and other organisations to find out the value of each asset in the estate.

If you need help tracking down this information, or don’t have time to work it out yourself, our estate administration service may be a good option for you.

This also includes the remaining steps in the probate process, so you can rest assured that everything will be taken care of and the beneficiaries will receive their inheritance.

Step 3: Applying for probate

If you choose to value the estate yourself, the next step will be to apply for probate. For this, you’ll need to fill out a probate application form along with inheritance tax form IHT205, IHT217 or IHT400 – depending on your situation.

These forms can be fairly complex, so most people choose to hire a solicitor or professional probate provider to handle this on their behalf.

To find out how we can get you probate for as little as £750 (including the £155 probate registry fee), please call our friendly team on 020 3695 1713.

Step 4: Getting the grant of probate

After your application has been submitted to the probate registry, it usually takes 3-6 weeks for it to be approved. However, if the forms include a few mistakes or there’s a backlog at the registry, this can take much longer.

Once the application is approved, this will be sent out to you in the post.

Step 5: Dealing with the estate admin

The final step in the probate process is dealing with the estate admin. This usually takes 3-6 months and includes things like:

  • Completing an inheritance tax return and paying any taxes due – such as inheritance tax, income tax or capital gains tax
  • Putting the house on the market and overseeing the sale – or transferring the house to beneficiaries
  • Closing bank accounts and collecting funds in one place
  • Contacting pension providers to access funds
  • Claiming on any life insurance policies
  • Repaying any outstanding debts owed by the deceased
  • Distributing funds to the beneficiaries

Want to find out how long probate will take based on your situation? Use our free calculator to get a quick estimate.

What is a grant of letters of administration?

A grant of letters of administration is an official court document that proves you have the authority to deal with someone’s estate. The key difference between this and a grant of probate is that a grant of letters of administration is needed for estates where there is no will. It may also be required in cases where there is a will but the executors are unable to deal with the estate. This is known as a grant of letters of administration with will annexed.

If you recently lost a loved one and stand to inherit the majority of their estate under the rules of intestacy, you may need to apply for a grant of letters of administration before you can deal with their assets. As part of this process, you’ll become the administrator of the estate.

What's the difference between probate and full estate administration?

When comparing prices for probate solicitors, you’ll probably notice a huge range of fees ranging from the hundreds well into the thousands. That’s because there are two different types of service you can choose from when applying for probate: getting the grant of probate (or grant of letters of administration) and full estate administration.

Getting the grant of probate

The simplest and cheapest option available is to simply get the grant of probate or grant of letters of administration. At Farewill, we quote fixed-fees of £595 for this service, or £1,045 if the estate is more complex.

For this, we set up a phone call to gather information about the estate and ask for any documents we may need. Our legal team will then check it over and, if everything is in order, they’ll prepare your probate application and tax forms. This will be sent out to you for approval, then, after receiving your signed documents, our legal team will submit your application to the government. Once your application is approved, we’ll get your grant sent out in the post, then you’re free to sell any property, close accounts and distribute funds to beneficiaries.

This could be a good option for you if you’re good with finances and have plenty of time on your hands. However, if you’re working full time or are worried you could get something wrong, you may prefer our full estate administration service.

Full estate administration

Full estate administration includes everything involved in getting the grant of probate or grant of letters of administration, plus all the admin that comes before and afterwards. This may include paying off debts and inheritance tax, selling property, closing bank accounts and collecting funds, claiming on life insurance policies, and distributing funds to beneficiaries.

Every estate is different, so the cost of our full estate administration service varies from case to case. While many probate solicitors charge a percentage of the estate, we always quote a fixed-fee upfront so you know exactly what to expect.

Summary

  • Probate is a legal document that gives you the authority to deal with someone’s estate.
  • It’s needed after around 50% of deaths in the UK and can be needed whether there’s a will or not.
  • The process of getting probate usually takes between 1 and 3 months. It can then take another 3-6 months to deal with the estate.
  • If you’re confident dealing with the estate admin yourself, you can get probate with Farewill for as little as £750 – including the government’s £155 fee.
  • If the estate is particularly complex and you’d like a professional to deal with this for you, our estate administration service may be a better fit for you – which starts at just £1,500.

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Need help with probate?

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