A five-minute guide on ‘How to apply for probate’

When you hear the word probate, it’s usually in the context of talking about wills. Both are probably subjects we’d rather not think about, until we’re really forced to… However, there are benefits to you and your loved ones if you learn what probate is and what it entails before you ever need to apply for it.

We’ll explain the process of applying for probate in this post. Our next post will cover the process that follows once you’ve received probate.

Let’s first make sure we’re familiar with two common terms you’ll hear.

Definitions: Testator and Executor

Just to clarify two legal terms:

  • The person who’s made a will is known as a testator.
  • The testator appoints an individual(s) or an institution to carry out the terms of their will according to their wishes – referred to as the executor.

(Source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary)

If you’ve been nominated as the executor of a loved one’s will, you may need to apply for a grant of probate – also known as a grant of representation.

Applying for probate

One of the clearest explanations we’ve found about probate is this one, published on the UK Government’s website:

“Applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) when they die is called ‘applying for probate’.

If the person left a will, you’ll get a ‘grant of probate’.

If the person did not leave a will, you’ll get ‘letters of administration’.

You apply for both in the same way.”

(Source: https://www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance)

A grant of probate – often shortened to ‘probate’ – is a legal document confirming the executor’s authority to deal with the estate of a person who’s died. It is not always required to obtain a grant of probate in order to administer an estate.

Is probate always required?

In very simple cases, probate isn’t necessary. For example, if the deceased:

  • owned land, property, shares or money jointly – these will all automatically pass to the surviving owners
  • only had savings or premium bonds

(Source: https://www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance)

You’ll need to contact each asset holder i.e. banks, building societies, pension companies and mortgage companies, to confirm whether probate is required for access to the deceased’s assets.

In our experience, most asset holders will need to see proof of probate before releasing funds that belonged to the deceased. Sometimes organisations will agree to release money to pay for the funeral and Inheritance Tax. 

Who can apply for probate?

If you do need to apply for probate, you have three choices as an executor. You can:

  • Apply for probate yourself
  • Use a solicitor
  • Use an accountant who is licensed to provide probate services

How much does it cost to apply for probate?

At the time of writing, if the value of the deceased’s estate is:

  • Less than £5,000, there is no application fee
  • More than £5,000, the application fee for probate is £215

Please note that an increase is expected later this year (2019).

What are the prerequisites for applying for probate?

Before you apply for probate, you must first estimate the estate’s value. This is why many executors prefer working with a licensed accountant or solicitor, to ensure the estate’s value is reported accurately and that the executor doesn’t incur any penalties for incorrect information.

Depending on the value of the estate, you may be liable for Inheritance Tax. Accountants are familiar with tax legislation and will be able to confirm to you and fellow executors how much will need to be paid before you get probate.

Of course, if you pay the tax from your own bank account, you’ll be able to claim it back later from the estate or the beneficiaries.

Note that where there isn’t a valid will, or the executors have renounced their executorship or are predeceased, the process is slightly different. Please contact us for confirmation of the probate process for your circumstances.

How do you apply for probate?

You can only apply for probate if you’re the executor of the will and you’ve already reported the estate’s value.

You will also need the following two documents:

  • the original will
  • the original death certificate

You can apply online, but you’ll need to send these documents to your local Probate Registry by post after you submit your application.

You can search for your local Probate Registry here: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/search/postcode?aol=Probate

How long does the probate application take?

It may take up to 20 working days to receive the grant of probate or letters of administration (if there is no will).

However, we have seen situations where it’s taken longer and there can be unforeseen delays. We support customers by chasing proactively on your behalf. Recently we even visited a Probate Registry in person to help move an application along.

You’ve received the grant of probate. What’s next?

In our next blog post, we’ll explain your responsibilities once you’ve received grant of probate.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions at all regarding probate, please call us on (01491) 845575 or email Jefferies Accountancy Services.

For reference, our licence to provide probate services is granted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

CHECKLIST: Get started on your own probate checklist

What can you do today to get #ProbatePrepared for the future?

It can take several weeks, if not months, to locate details of all the bank accounts, shares and assets that someone owns, if their paperwork isn’t in order. We believe there’s no time like the present to get your affairs under control, so here’s a checklist of questions you can work through to start getting yourself organised.

 Action
1Have you documented all bank accounts, shares, pensions and property that you own, so the information is easy to access when needed?
2Have you documented all the bills you pay? TIP: Use Direct Debits and Standing Orders as a starting point.
3Have you considered meeting local accountants or solicitors, so you can specify who you’d like the executor or administrator of your will to use?
4Have you reviewed and documented all information that needs to be included in an Inheritance Tax form?  

For Jefferies Accountancy Services, being ‘probate prepared’ means:

  • Your affairs are in order long before they need to be – bringing you clarity and peace of mind that none of your hard-earned assets ever ‘go missing’
  • The burden of dealing with unfiled paperwork is greatly reduced – relieving your loved ones from distress in what is likely to be a difficult period
White binders containing organised documents for probate

If you have any questions about probate, tax or getting organised financially, please get in touch. Our door is always open in Henley. Please call us on (01491) 845575 to arrange an introductory meeting.

We hope you found this article helpful and look forward to responding to your probate questions.

Online sources

Which?

Co-op

Gov.uk