Is probate required if there is a will in the UK?

When is probate required?

If you’ve recently lost a loved one, you're probably thinking about applying for probate. But before submitting your application, it’s worth checking to make sure you need it. Here, we’ll cover what probate is and when it’s required in the UK.

by June Yap
January 10, 2020

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What is probate?

Probate is the legal process you need to go through to deal with someone’s estate when they die. After going through this process, you’ll receive a government-approved 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.

Depending on your specific situation, you’ll either need a grant of probate or a grant of letters of administration. In some cases, probate may not be required at all – but we’ll come back to that a bit later.

Who is responsible for applying for probate?

If there is a will…

If there is a will, the executors named in the will need to apply for a grant of probate. As part of this process, they’ll need to collect the assets, pay off any debts and distribute the estate to the beneficiaries named in the will. However, most executors choose to use a professional service for this, as the process can be quite stressful and time consuming.

If there isn’t a will…

In cases where there isn’t a will, a close relative (known as the administrator) needs to apply for a grant of letters of administration. This is usually the person who stands to inherit the most under the rules of intestacy, such as a married partner or child of the deceased. Again, most people tend to use a professional probate service for this, as applying for probate can feel like an unnecessary burden after losing a loved one.

How to find out if you need probate

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 from the government.

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 will automatically pass to the surviving co-owner. This means that you won’t need to apply for probate to release these assets, you’ll just need the death certificate.

However, you may still need to apply for probate if the property was owned 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.

3. 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 1713. We’ll talk through your situation for a few minutes and offer guidance on the estate you’re dealing with.

How to apply 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. The government can take a little while to approve applications, so the sooner yours is submitted, the better.

When it comes to applying for probate with Farewill, you’ll have a choice between two different options:

1. Getting the grant

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, you have plenty of free time and you’re good with numbers.

After a brief consultation over the phone, we’ll set up a follow-up call to record all the necessary information about the estate. Once we have everything we need, our legal team will complete the application and tax forms, then we’ll send this to you for your approval before submitting it to the probate registry.

Once we receive the grant, we’ll send it out in the post, then you’re free to sort out the estate yourself – including selling property, paying off debts, closing bank accounts and distributing assets.

2. Full estate administration

If you’re short on time, want more support or feel that the estate is too complex to take on yourself, we also offer a full estate administration service. This reduces the burden on you and your family and gives you the assurance that the estate is being dealt with correctly.

Here’s a brief breakdown of what’s included with full estate administration:

  • Contacting third parties about the assets and debts in the estate
  • Completing the application for probate
  • Collecting or transferring assets
  • Paying off debts to include taxes
  • Contacting beneficiaries and ensuring that they receive their inheritance

As full estate administration is a more involved service, our pricing varies on a case-by-case basis. Call our probate specialists today on 020 3695 1713 for a free quote.

Read next: How long does the probate process take?

Need to arrange a cremation for your loved one? Find out about our fixed-price direct cremation service here.

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