Understanding Probate and what you need to do.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process of administering the estate of the deceased.  This involves the organisation of the Finances, Assets and Possessions.  They are distributed as inheritance after paying any debts.

If there is a will in place, there would be someone who was chosen to administer this and manage the process.  This person is called the Executor of the will.

Grant of Probate

Before the process starts, the Executor needs to apply for a Grant of Probate.  This is a legal document giving them authority to deal with the property and estate.  

The Probate process ends once all of the debts and taxes have been paid and inheritance has been sorted.

The Process

Every Estate and Will is different in many ways.  Probate, the exact process, varies depending on what the Will states and what is included – such as Assets, Creditors, Beneficiaries and so on.

The basic process

Probate can be simple, unless there are any disputes and then the process can become more complex.  These disputes can be between the Executor, Beneficiaries, Creditors or even HMRC.  You may need to speak to a Solicitor to help with this or any stage of the Probate process.

How long does it take?

In most case Probate can take around a year, although the exact time depends on the size and complexity of the estate.  International Probate can be more complex and timescales are very different.  An International Probate can take between 6 months and 2 years.  Any disputes can prolong the process increasing the time.

How much does it cost?

Probate changes and varies depending on the amount of work involved and who you appoint to assist you, if anyone.  There are fees to pay to HMRC, find out more here for the most up-to-date fees.

Who can apply?

Only the Executor named in the Will can apply for Probate to administer the estate.  

If someone dies and there is no will, this is described as Intestate.  The intestacy riles will say who can apply to administer the estate instead.

There is no Will

A Grant of Probate cannot be achieved if there is no Will, although you can still administer the estate albeit through a slightly different process.

The rules of intestacy set out who can apply to administer the estate with a Grant of Administration.  When a Will is not in place, it does not state how everything will be distributed.  The administrator will distribute inheritance according to the rules of intestacy.  Under these rules only the Spouses, Civil Partners, Children and other close relatives can inherit.

Can I challenge the Will?

A Will can be challenged or contested if you think it doesn’t accurately represent the intentions of the deceased; for their estate, or because you think it is not valid for another reason.  You can contest if:

Can the will be changed?

A valid Will can be changed, although only changes to the share of inheritance given to you.  In these circumstances you will need to apply for a Deed of Variation, or a Deed of Family Arrangement in order to be able to do this.  Changing a Will can be tough so you may need to seek legal advice or assistance. These types of changes include:

A Beneficiary

A beneficiary is a person that is due to receive an inheritance from an estate.  If you are a beneficiary, you have certain rights that needed to be abided by, the executor of the estate is responsible for this.

What rights do they have?

If a Will has been left then all beneficiaries will be named.  If there is no Will, beneficiaries will be chosen according to intestacy rules.

During the Probate process all beneficiaries have the right to information.  The executor has the responsibility to keep beneficiaries up to date with how the administration is progressing.  Accounts must be kept and shown when requested.

Legal action can be taken against an Executor if the rights are breached or if the estate is otherwise mismanaged.

Apply for Probate

View Resources

Online Guided Process

Timeline after death