Applying for Probate
Whenever a person dies, there will be a need to settle their personal financial affairs and deal properly with any property, debts or assets. Probate is the process for obtaining the legal right to deal with a person’s estate after they die. The type of Probate required depends on whether the deceased left a valid will or not.
Do I need Probate?
The first consideration in the Probate process, is checking whether an application actually needs to be made. Probate may not be needed for very small estates or where jointly owned property passes on to others automatically on death, or where there is only cash savings or Premium Bonds. Where the estate is small, usually where the value is less than five thousand pounds, it may be possible to deal with the banks or other organisations involved without needing to go through the probate process. They will often agree to release smaller sums without a formal Grant of Probate, but each institution has its own rules so check with each one before deciding to apply.
Probate will be needed where the deceased owned property which is not held as a joint tenant with others or where there are savings, investments and other assets in excess of five thousand pounds. Before applying for probate the estate will have to be valued. Inheritance Tax may be payable and generally some of the tax due will have to be paid before probate can be granted.
Who can Apply for Probate?
If you do need to apply for probate it is a procedure that can be undertaken without a Lawyer but it’s good to know that professional help is available if you get into difficulties. Getting things wrong adds delay and complicates what can already be a time consuming and stressful process.
Where the deceased left a valid will the named Executors can apply for what is called a Grant of Probate. This is a Court document proving the legal authority of the Executor(s) to deal with the personal affairs of the deceased. Where there is no Will, or the Will does not deal with appointing Executor(s) the next of kin are able to apply for Letters of Administration, authorising them to deal with the estate.
The Executor(s) will need the most recently made, original and legally valid Will in order to apply for Probate. Where more than one Executor is appointed in the will, they should agree between them who will make the application. Up to four Executors can be named on the application form. Where an application is made by a single Executor but others are named in the Will, the applicant will have to show that they made efforts to contact all of the other Executors before submitting the application.
How to Apply for Probate
The process of applying for Probate is the same for both Executors and personal representatives applying for Letters of Administration. A Form called a PA1 must be completed. This needs to be sent to the nearest district probate registry along with the death certificate, original Will and two copies. The correct Inheritance Tax Form has to be sent at the same time. There is an application fee to pay (the latest fees are published by HMCTS in a document called the PA3 which can be found online) and a small fee for each copy of the Grant required. It is a good idea to have a certified copy of the Grant for each institution you need to deal with to save time. This means not having to wait for a copy of the Grant to be returned before contacting another organisation.
The Application can be made online or by post. Where the documents are sent in the post, the Executors must swear an Oath in front of a solicitor or at the Probate Registry and send this to the Probate Registry. Only the Executors who apply and are named on the Grant have the authority to deal with the estate.
The Application will usually take between 10-20 days to process but there can be significant delays caused by the workload of the Probate Registries. Often there can be backlogs of many weeks. The Application will be returned if it is not completed properly and supported by the necessary documents with the correct fee. It is therefore essential that the Application is properly made so if there is any uncertainty about what to do seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity.
Gov.co.uk: Download the Probate Forms or Apply Online
Giv.co.uk: Inheritance Tax Forms