Unlocking someone's estate with probate

What is probate?

If you’ve recently lost a loved one or are the executor of a will, you may need to apply for probate to deal with their estate. Here, we’ll explain what probate is, what it involves and why it’s so important.

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

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 the legal process you need to go through to deal with someone’s estate when they die. This is often called ‘applying for probate’. After submitting your application to the government, you’ll receive a document that you can take to banks, the Land Registry and other organisations. This gives you the authority to collect assets and distribute funds to beneficiaries.

Probate is required after around 50% of deaths in the UK and can be needed whether there is a will or not. If most of the assets were jointly owned or the estate’s value is less than £10,000, you may not need to apply for probate. You can find out more about when probate is required here.

If you do need to go through the probate process, you’ll either need to apply for a grant of probate or grant of letters of administration. Together, these documents are known as grants of representation. We’ll look at what each of these terms mean below.

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.

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.

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