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 If you are unfamiliar with the process of dealing with a loved one’s estate after they die, PHR Solicitors' guide can help.

When Do You Need a Grant of Probate?

Being asked to deal with the estate of a person who has died can seem a little daunting. This is why it makes sense to understand when a grant of probate is needed and exactly what it is.

Below, we detail the scenarios in which you would and would not need a grant of probate.

If you are named in someone’s will as an executor, it is likely you will have to apply for a grant of probate when they die so that you can begin the probate process.

This is a legal document that gives you the authority to manage their estate and begin administering it according to their will. 

However, you do not always need to be granted probate to deal with an estate. There are some exceptions where the estate can be administered without the need to apply for probate.

If, for example, there is no valid will, the grant of probate is replaced with letters of administration that will enable you to manage the deceased person's estate and assets. 

Below, we explain what probate is, when it is needed, and how long the entire probate process can take. If you have any questions we have not answered, our expert probate solicitors are happy to speak to you regarding your probate query and provide the legal services you need. You can contact us by completing the enquiry form below or by calling 0151 666 9090.

What is a grant of probate?

A grant of probate is an official document that gives the named executor(s) the legal right to access and administer the estate of the deceased.

It is granted by the Probate Registry and is one of the first stages in the probate process, following the valuation of the estate for the purposes of inheritance tax. 

The executors of a will cannot begin administering the estate before they obtain a grant of probate, as they will not have the legal authority to access the deceased's bank accounts and other key statements and bills.

The executors named will need to pay any outstanding tax, settle debts, value assets held, administer cash gifts and manage other aspects of the estate administration when a person dies, meaning that access to bank accounts will be necessary.

Only named executors can apply for a grant of probate. If an executor refuses to do so, or they have lost mental capacity, an administrator will need to be named by the courts. Once an administrator has been named, they need to apply for letters of administration with will annexed, which works in a similar way to a grant of probate.

When do you need a grant of probate? 

In the majority of cases, a grant of probate will be needed. Whether or not you need probate depends on:

  • The size of the estate
  • Whether there were any joint assets
  • Whether the estate consists of only cash and personal belongings 
  • If you need to sell a property on behalf of the estate
  • Bank and/or financial institutions' individual terms

Generally speaking, if the estate is worth over £5,000, it is likely you will need a grant of probate. This value depends on the financial situation of the person who has died, because it represents all the deceased person's assets (most commonly comprising property and bank accounts) minus any money they owed, including mortgage payments or other debts.

Having said this, different banks have certain limits and their own approach to probate. Some have a threshold of £5,000 which means anything over this will need a grant of probate, while others have raised their ceiling to £50,000.

In addition, some banks and financial institutions take into account the value of the whole estate. They may state that if the overall value of the deceased’s estate is £15,000, probate is required. Whereas some financial institutions only focus on what is in their individual account.

Probate will normally be required when:

  • The estate is worth over £5,000
  • The deceased owned property
  • The deceased owned stocks or shares in their sole name
  • The deceased had money in their sole name
  • Any part of the estate administration is disputed and there are legal proceedings
  • It is always worth seeking expert legal advice if you have any queries or concerns relating to a grant of probate. Our Wirral probate solicitors are on hand to guide you through the process.

When is probate not required? 

A grant of probate is not always required. Executors can sometimes administer the estate without a grant of probate if the estate meets certain criteria. These include:

  • The estate is worth less than £5,000
  • The estate is made up of cash (banknotes and coins) and personal items such as cars and watches
  • All property is owned jointly
  • You discover that the estate is insolvent after paying all debts, taxes, and expenses
  • Any bank accounts or property that is jointly owned will pass onto the other owner under the right of survivorship. 

As mentioned above, some banks and building societies will release relatively large sums without the need for probate, but they are not required to do so.

If the financial institution refuses to release money without probate, you must apply for a grant of probate. 

How long does the process of probate take? 

Unfortunately, there is no definitive timeframe for receiving a grant of probate after you have applied. The official line from the Probate Registry is:

You will usually get the grant of probate or letters of administration within 8 weeks of sending in your original documents. It can take longer if you need to provide additional information.

However, we know that this can sometimes take longer. On average, it takes between three to four months to get the necessary paperwork back from the Probate Registry, and this can be longer if you apply online without the support of a solicitor.

Any mistakes in the probate application will cause significant delays, meaning it is vitally important that you follow the correct procedures.

For complex estates, we recommend you seek legal advice from a qualified probate solicitor before making a probate application.  

How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help? 

At Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors, we have a team of dedicated probate solicitors who are ready to help you resolve your query or issue relating to this area of the law as quickly and effectively as possible.

If you need help applying for a grant of probate, or want to understand whether probate is needed, our wills, trusts, and probate solicitors have a wealth of experience.

They can assist you through what can be a traumatic time, and are on hand to provide expert probate advice.

If you would like to contact one of our expert probate solicitors you can do so by calling 0151 666 9090 or by completing the “Get in touch” form on this site.

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