If you are not certain whether probate is required on your loved one’s estate, call 01225 755656 and speak to our Wills and Probate team. They can often give you an immediate answer. Alternatively, you can email them, or complete the contact form at the foot of this page.
A common inquiry we receive following a death, particularly when an estate is small, is whether probate is required. While we can often give a definite answer, sometimes it’s not immediately clear.
What is probate?
If somebody dies having made a Will, they will almost certainly have named the person or people they would like to carry out their wishes. These people are known as executors. Before they can begin that process – called the administration of the estate – in most cases they must first obtain permission from the Probate Registry. The document granting that permission is called a Grant of Probate. However, the term ‘probate’ has come to be used more widely to describe the whole process of administering an estate.
If somebody dies without a Will – referred to as dying intestate –certain inflexible legal rules (the intestacy rules) dictate how their money, property and possessions are allocated. The intestacy rules also state who can apply to administer the estate.
How long does a Grant of Probate take?
The Probate Registry will issue a grant within 2 to 4 weeks of the application in normal circumstances. However, as a result of the pandemic, we have experienced delays of several months in some cases.
Do I need probate?
The following factors may mean that a Grant of Probate is not required, but this will depend very much on the circumstances of the particular estate:
- All of the ‘real’ property in the estate – house, flat etc – is owned as beneficial joint tenants. Such property automatically becomes wholly owned by the surviving joint owner.
- The estate comprises only cash (ie bank notes and coins) and personal possessions such as furniture, jewellery, a car and miscellaneous effects.
- Bank and building society accounts are joint.
- The amount of money in the estate is small.
- The estate is insolvent, so there is not enough money to pay all the debts, taxes and expenses.
Note also that certain life insurance policy and pension benefits can pass separately to the estate if the deceased nominated those benefits to a separate trust, usually for the benefit of a spouse or other loved one. Probate is sometimes not required in respect of such benefits.