Applying for probate What is probate? Video guide
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process for dealing with the estate of someone who has died. It is the responsibility of the executors named in their will. In most cases, these will be family or friends of the deceased (lay executors), but some people appoint professional executors (a solicitor or will writer). Professional executors will expect to be paid from the proceeds of the estate for acting in this capacity. They normally carry out the entire probate process and receive a fee for this, too.
Lay executors may choose to appoint a professional (normally a probate solicitor) to carry out probate on their behalf, or they can opt for DIY probate, where they fill in the relevant forms and deal with the Probate Registry directly. This is quite common, although for complicated estates professional assistance may be essential. DIY probate is far cheaper, but very time consuming.
Find out more: Which? Legal can provide step-by-step assistance with probate
The probate process
If you're the executor of the will, you'll usually have to obtain a grant of probate. However, this may not be necessary for estates under £15,000, or if the assets were held jointly and are passing to a surviving spouse or civil partner.
If you do need to carry out probate, the first step is to assess the size of the estate (work out how much has been left) and apply for a grant of probate.
The second stage in the probate process is the administration of the estate, where executors gather in and and distribute assets in accordance with the will. This can only be undertaken once a grant of probate or letters of administration have been obtained. In Scotland, the process is called confirmation.
Find out more: Intestacy rules - what to do if someone dies without a will
- What to do when someone dies - see our step-by-step guide
- Avoid paying inheritance tax - see our tips
- Which? Money Helpline - for personalised guidance on probate issues
Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.