Wills and probate

The information here is a very brief introduction to a complex subject. If you are not sure if Probate will be necessary, call our free helpline on 0808 164 2239.

When someone dies, there are certain tasks that need to be taken care of. Anyone responsible for dealing with an estate is called a Personal Representative. The Personal Representatives are the executors named in the Will or, if there isn’t one, the people set out in law.

A Grant of Probate is a legal order which allows the executor of a Will or their professional representative to deal with the property and financial affairs of the person who has died. However, when most people use the word probate they mean the whole process of discovering what someone has left, going through the legal process of gaining authority to deal with it (whether there is a Will or not), paying off any debts and finally distributing the remainder to the people entitled to receive it.

This is the administration of the estate, which can take up to a year or more depending on the complexity and whether a property is involved.

Many people choose to use professional help to deal with the legal formalities of obtaining the Grant of Probate and administering an estate. As with all professional services you will be charged (but in many cases the fees are deducted from the estate); do ask as many questions as you need to about price structures and how the service will be provided.

Whether you need Probate depends on the value of the estate. An asset holder (e.g. a bank) can insist that a Grant of Probate be obtained for any amount over £5,000, although many have a higher threshold. This is the procedure laid down in law to ensure the wishes of the person who has died are carried out, creditors are paid and that the people named as beneficiaries receive their entitlement.

Banks should be contacted quickly to secure the estate and prevent fraud. It’s a good idea to keep a note of who you spoke to and the date and time of the call.

The law and procedure relating to Probate differs in different parts of the United Kingdom.

There are some considerable differences between applying for Confirmation in Scotland and applying for Probate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is because Scotland has a separate judicial system and the differences between Confirmation and Probate are matters of law, upheld by the Scottish Courts.

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Further Reading: Bereavement Support

It can be a confusing time following a death and difficult to know what you need to do first. We are glad to be able to offer help and support at this difficult time.