When dealing with it for the first time, the administration around a death can seem overwhelming. At Life Ledger, we understand that applying for a grant of probate can feel like a total step into the unknown.
But, the more you know about the death management process, the more equipped you’ll be to navigate it. And, trust us when we say that it’s not as complicated as it first appears.
What is probate?
Probate is the process of administering and distributing the deceased’s entire assets and estate. It is undertaken by an executor, who has the legal authority to complete this process. The executor is typically named by the deceased in their will.
During probate, the executor will need to complete a series of legal tasks that are designed to deal with all of the deceased’s money, property and valuable assets. These steps will ensure that all of the assets have been correctly valued, distributed and that any outstanding accounts or debts have been formally closed.
The standard course of probate can be broken down into applying for the grant of probate, and then administering the deceased’s estate.
What is the grant of probate?
In order to start probate, the executor will need to apply for the grant of probate. Without it, they will not have the legal authority to undertake the process.
The grant of probate is a legal document, which gives the executor the power to complete probate. This includes giving them the authority to access the deceased’s bank accounts, distribute their estate, pay any outstanding debts, and sell their assets, if required.
Note that this document is only called a grant of probate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (in Scotland, the document is named a grant of confirmation).
Who needs a grant of probate?
If the deceased named an executor, then it is the responsibility of this individual to apply for probate.
A grant of probate will be needed to access the finances of the deceased, and to begin the estate management process.
While not all estates will require an executor to complete a grant probate, it is relatively rare that this is the case.
The first instance where a grant of probate would not be required is if the value of the estate is below £10,000. In this case, the estate can be managed by the appointed executor, without the need to apply for legal authority.
Secondly, if the deceased’s estate was held in joint ownership with another person (most commonly a partner), then full ownership will have automatically been transferred to that individual, according to the rights of survivorship. As a result, a grant of probate may not be needed.
But, unless these assets and properties were jointly owned by the deceased and their executor, without a grant of probate you will not have the authority to sell a house, access bank records or conduct any other course of action – even if the deceased was the executor’s partner or parent.
If either of these scenarios apply, to determine whether or not you require a grant of probate, the executor can try contacting the bank and requesting access to the deceased’s account. If a grant of probate is not required, they will grant you this authority.
How do I apply for a grant of probate?
Applying for the grant of probate can be done in one of two ways – submitting a written application or completing the required online form
But, before you can do this, you will need to complete an estate valuation.
In order to successfully be granted probate, you will need to have received a death certificate, registered the death, and then valued the estate.
For a process of valuation, the executor will need to calculate the total value of the deceased’s estate, including their property, any money left in bank accounts, shares or stocks, and valuable possessions.
Depending on the value of the deceased’s estate, you may also need to complete an inheritance tax payment.
Once you have successfully completed all of these steps, you can then file an application for probate. To do this, you will need to:
- Fill out the probate application form (also referred to as a PA1P).
- You can either complete the online form and submit the information digitally, or download and print the form, before filling it out.
- Sign the form and include the date of completion.
- Sign a statement of truth, to go alongside the form. This will act as a proof that all of the information you have supplied is correct.
- Pay the required fees. You can either do this over the phone, or by sending a cheque with your application by post. Find out more details about paying for a grant of probate on the GOV.UK website.
- Submit the original will and death certificate, alongside your application. Note that you cannot provide photocopies or other versions of these documents; they have to be the official and original copies.
- If posting the application, you will need to send all of the required information to: HMCTS Probate, PO Box 12625, Harlow, CM20 9QE
As mentioned above, as part of your probate application, you will need to pay the required fees. In England and Wales, this is fixed at £273 (for any estate that is valued at £5,000 or over).
In Northern Ireland, there is a fixed application fee of £261. In Scotland, the fee for a probate application is £266 if the estate is worth less than £250,000, and £532 for any estates above that value.
Once you have submitted your probate application, the expected wait time for it to be processed is about 8 weeks. However, internal difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic mean that considerable delays may be incurred.
What happens if a will hasn’t been left?
If the deceased did not leave a will, then the course of action has to take another route. Instead, the deceased’s next of kin will need to apply for the grant of letters of administration. The next of kin will then need to distribute the assets according to the laws of intestacy.