Writing a will Wills and probate

Wills and probate

There are many steps you need to follow before you can obtain a grant of probate

What is probate?

Technically speaking, probate is the business of legally verifying someone's will. But over time, the term has also come to be used to describe the process of administering the estate of someone who has died. The executors named in your will have a duty to deal with your affairs and distribute your estate, in accordance with what's in your will.

If you've been appointed as an executor to an estate, you have to apply for a grant of probate from the Probate Registry. This is a legal document which will give you the authority to deal with someone’s property, investments and possessions.

If you’re dealing with probate, need individual advice on wills or any other aspect of your finances, sign up to a £1 trial with Which? and you can speak to a member of our Money Helpline team to get individual guidance

Find out more: What to do when someone dies- from planning a funeral to applying for probate and administering an estate.

What to do when you apply for grant of probate

In order to obtain the grant of probate, there are a number of tasks you have to carry out. These include:

  • Obtaining the death certificate
  • Establishing your authority as the executor of estate
  • Value the person’s estate
  • Calculate whether or not the estate is liable for inheritance tax
  • Return completed probate forms
  • Attend a Probate Registry interview and swear an executor’s oath
  • Pay any inheritance that’s due

Find out more: Which? Wills - make your own will with Which? in five easy steps

Dealing with probate when someone dies intestate

In cases where there is no will, or none that is valid, the deceased is said to have died intestate. This applies in about 25% of cases.

Beneficiaries are identified by the intestacy rules, which provide for a surviving spouse or children to receive a specific share of the estate. If there is no spouse or children, the parents or siblings of the deceased inherit.

The estate is administered by a family member, who applies for Letters of Administration, rather than a Grant of Probate. Once these are obtained, they follow the same process as an executor, gathering in the assets and distributing them.

More on this...

Last updated:

June 2016

Updated by:

Ian Robinson

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.