Probate Services

Probate, Inheritance and Wills


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WILLS, PROBATE & INHERITANCE

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At what can be a difficult time for a family or person, probate can be an added stress.

Our friendly, reliable and professional probate experts are on hand to help at this time.

For advice and to see how we can support you, see below.

Upon the death of an individual you may find that you need to apply for probate.

This gives you the legal right to administer someone’s estate, which is inclusive of their belongings, money or property, and if there is a will, enact it.

You will receive a ‘grant of probate’ if a will has been left.

However, if there is no will you will have to apply for ‘letters of administration’.

To apply for these in England and Wales the process is the same for either.

However, the process differs in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

It is possible that you might not need probate. In the following circumstances you would not need it:

  • If the deceased jointly owned money, share or land, these are automatically transferred to the survivors.
  • If the deceased had premium bonds or savings only.

If you have to manage someone’s estate after they die, you should contact each individual asset holder, as they may have different rules as to whether you need probate to gain access to their remaining assets.

For example: a mortgage company may have different rules to a bank.

How does the application probate work?


  1. First check if the individual left a will. If there’s no will the application process is different.
  2. You must get an accurate valuation of the estate, this is then reported to HMRC.
  3. You then apply for probate.
  4. If there is any inheritance tax due, this must be paid to HMRC.
  5. The estate's assets need to be collected, for example, if the sale of property has generated any money.
  6. Any outstanding debts need to be paid, for example electric or gas bills.
  7. A record needs to be kept (estate accounts), of how the division of possessions is to occur, for example a split of money or property.
  8. Distribute the assets, otherwise known as passing the estate on to the named beneficiaries, or the people named in the will.

What happens if the deceased has left a will?


In the event of death, a will determines how the deceased wished their belongings and property passed on after they died.

To make a will valid it usually needs to be witnessed by 2 people and signed by all 3, the will maker included.

The person who is named in the will, or a codicil (update) of the will to execute the wishes stated in the will is known as the executor.

The executor will usually apply for probate to execute the will and manage the estate, and any subsequent divisions of the estate to those named in the will.

It is essential that you have original copies of the will and any codicil, not photocopies, when you are applying for probate.

The original will needs to be found.

Usually the deceased will have already informed any executors of the will where it can be found, along with any updates to the will, this could be:

  • In their house.
  • Being held by a solicitor.
  • With the London Probate Department. In this case you will need to provide a death certificate and also prove that you are the executor of the will.

In the event you cannot understand the will or any of the updates, it is recommended that you seek professional legal advice or the support of the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Our professional, experienced probate experts are on hand to help if you need.

What if I cannot find the will?


If you cannot find the original will a lost will form needs to be filled out.

What if there is more than one will?


If more than one will is produced, the most recent will will be classed as valid.

However, you should not destroy any earlier copies of the will before you have received probate.

What if the deceased didn't leave a will?


In the event the person did not leave a will, or the will cannot be found, you will have to begin the application to become the ‘administrator’ of the deceased’s estate.

This process does not differ to that of applying for probate.

Once you have applied to be administrator, you should get ‘letters of administration’, which act as proof that you have the legal right to administer the deceased’s estate.

Who can apply to be administrator of a will?


It is normally the next of kin who can apply to be administrator of a will, for example their child, civil partner or spouse.

Even if you were separated from the deceased at time of death, you can still apply to be administrator of the will if you were still in a civil partnership or married.

However, if you were not in a civil partnership or married but were their partner, you are unable to apply.

Moreover, if you are not married or in a civil partnership at the time of death but were their partner there is no automatic entitlement to part of the estate.

If there is no will, who inherits?


If no will has been left, the law will decide who inherits.

The rules for inheritance vary in different EU countries.

What if I am an executor of the will?


You will have normally been informed by the deceased if you are to be an executor of the will.

As an executor, you can only receive assets from the estate if you are a named beneficiary in the will.

What if there are more than one executor of a will?


In the event there is more than one executor named, all the executors must decide among themselves who will apply for probate.

A maximum of 4 people are able to apply for probate.

All executors of the will who have applied for probate must make a legal declaration that all the information provided for the application for probate is true.

In the event there are multiple executioners yet only one applies for probate, they must provide evidence that they have attempted to contact all the other executors of the will at the time of the application.

In the event you cannot find the other executioners, you are able to contact your local probate registry for assistance and advice.

If any disagreements arise between the executioners of the will these will need to be settled, possibly with legal advice or legal professionals, between the executors.

A probate registry is unable to help with these kinds of disagreements.

What if I cannot, or do not, want to be an executor?


If you are ‘unable or unwilling’ to be an executor of the estate there is often named in the will a replacement executor.

However, if there is no replacement executor and everyone is ‘unable or unwilling’, you will need to contact the local probate registry.

I do not want to be an executor, what do I do?


If you do not want to be an executor of the will you can:

  • Fill in a renunciation form and send it alongside the probate application form.
    This will renounce, or give up, the right and ability to apply for probate.
  • Hold ‘power reserved’.
    Which is waiting to see if another executor of the will is willing or able to execute the will, and if they are not then you can still execute the will.
  • Get legal support, it is possible to get an attorney to enact the will for you.
    To do this you will need to file an attorney form with your application for probate.

What if the executor is no longer able to apply for probate?


In this event, the replacement executor will have to apply for probate.

Certain examples of when this is necessary are as follows:

  • If the executioner named has died.
  • If the executioner named, no longer has ‘mental capacity’.
    In this circumstance you will need a doctor to complete a mental capacity form and this will be sent with the application for probate.

How do I apply for probate?


To apply for probate, you can enable a licensed probate services professional, or a solicitor, or if you are the executor you can apply for probate yourself.

If no will has been left by the deceased, you will need to apply for letters of administration.

To do this is the same process as applying for probate.

However, it must be done by post.

Reporting the value of the estate for inheritance tax purposes


Before you begin the application for inheritance tax you must estimate the value of the estate and report it to HMRC.

You may have to pay inheritance tax which is dependent on the value of the estate.

It is possible to receive a fine if you send HMRC incorrect information, or undervalue the estate on the inheritance tax form.

Often HMRC will demand that you pay at some of the tax if there is expected to be inheritance tax before you are able to receive probate.

If you pay the tax from your own funds, it is possible to get this back from any beneficiaries of the will or from the estate.

Can I apply online for probate?


Yes. The online service can be used by the executor if they have:

  • The original will.
  • An interim, or original death certificate from the coroner.
  • Reported to HMRC the value of the estate.

The deceased must have spent most of the time living in England or Wales.

If you wish the application to be conducted in Welsh, you must apply by post.

After completing the online application all original documents must be sent by post.

How do I apply by post for probate?


You will need to complete and return a form, which one is dependent on whether a will was left by the deceased.

  • If a will was left – complete probate application form PA1P and send it with any original documents that are needed.
  • If a will was not left – complete probate application form PA1A and send it with the original documents that are required.

What forms do I need to send?


All documents must be sent to the local probate registry.

You must send:

  • An original will along with any codicils (additions) to it.
  • A further 2 copies of the will and codicils
    You should not remove any bindings or staples from the originals when you are making the copies.
  • An interim death certificate provided by the coroner or a death certificate.

It is recommended that you use the ‘signed for’ or tracked postal service when you are sending the documents to avoid them getting lost.

You will not get the will or any codicils back as these will be held by the probate registry office.

However, you will receive the death certificate.

What if the will has been damaged or changed?


If the will has been damaged or changed after you have had them you must provide a letter explaining why.

For example, if you decided to remove the staples for photocopying.

What fees are there?


If the estate is valued at over £5,000 there will be a fee of £215, however if it is valued at under £5,000 there will be no fees.

How do I pay?


To pay you can do either of the following:

  • Contact your local probate registry by phone between 9:30 am and 3 pm and you can make payment with either your credit or debit card.
    Upon payment you will receive a reference number, hold on to this as you will have to send it with any documents.
  • You can also pay by cheque, make it payable to HM Courts and Tribunals Service, this can be sent with any documents.

If you require extra copies of the probate, they are charged at 50p per copy.

These enable you to send the documents to multiple organisations at the same time.

What happens after I have applied?


You should receive your grant of probate, or letters of administration, no later than 20 days after you sent any original documents with your application.

If there are any errors, you must return it to the probate registry.

Copies will need to be sent to organisations that are holding the assets of the deceased, for example the mortgage company or bank.

How do I get access to the financial assets of the deceased?


As an executor you can get any financial assets transferred to an ‘executorship account’.

For example:

  • The bank account of the executor.
  • A bank account created specially to deal with the financial assets of the estate.

When withdrawing assets, it may be that every executor must be present.

You should check with the asset holder first, as often the rules will vary depending in the organisation.

Do I have to pay off any outstanding debts?


Before you distribute the estate, outstanding debts must be first paid off.

For example, any tax that is owed, or any outstanding utility bills.

It is recommended that you place a notice in The Gazette.

This removes your responsibility for any outstanding debts and allows any creditors to come forward an make a claim against the estate.

If you have enacted a solicitor to assist you in the probate process, their fees can be paid by the estate.

What if the property or bank accounts are jointly owned?


If there is money in a joint bank account it will automatically pass to the joint owner, however it must still be declared for inheritance tax purposes.

If it is a property that is jointly owned, it will automatically pass to the joint owner.

If it is not it will pass to the named beneficiary in the will.

If there is uncertainty about how a property is owned, you can contact the land registry or contact the mortgage company.

It may be that you need to seek legal advice at this point.

It may also be that the property records will need to be updated.

Distributing the estate


After you have paid all the taxes and outstanding debts, you are now ready to distribute the estate.

This must be done by following:

  • What is written in the will.
  • or in the event there is no will, as laid out by the law.

If income is generated by an inheritance the beneficiaries may have to pay inheritance tax.

After you have done this you will need to prepare the estate's accounts.

You will need the approval of the main beneficiaries who in turn will have to sign off on it with the executor.

Can I stop a probate application?


Yes. The probate application can be stopped by entering a caveat.

This can be done if there is a dispute over:

  • Who can and should apply for probate.
  • Whether or not a will exists.

A caveat will last for up to 6 months.

How do I enter a caveat?


To enter a caveat, you must be 18 years old or over.

You can use a person licensed to provide probate services, a solicitor or do it yourself.

To do so you will need:

  • Form PA8, which is an application for a caveat and needs to be signed.
  • The last address, full name and date of birth of the deceased.
  • A home address in Wales or England.

To enter a caveat, you can visit or write to the probate registry.

The probate registry is not able to provide legal advice.

How much does it cost to enter a caveat?


£20 is the fee for entering a caveat.

How do I search for probate records?


In England and Wales probate records can be searched for online and by post.

It is possible to search for probate records online for anyone who died after 1857.

Copies can be ordered online for £10 each.

You will receive these documents with 10 working days.

If the probate record is new, it usually takes 14 days after the issuing of probate for it to appear online.

To search for probate by post you will have to complete PA1S – Application for a search (copies of grants and wills) which you can download and then return it.

The address is provided on the form.

You will receive a copy of the will and the probate at a cost of £10.

You will normally receive this within 4 weeks.

Can I get sent a copy of a probate?


You can apply for a standing search, which is where you will receive a copy of a probate in the event it is granted in the 6 months following your request.

This can be extended after the 6 months have expired.

How can you help me with probate?


Probate can be a difficult and confusing time at a time of great distress for you and your loved ones.

Our experts in probate are experienced, professional and understanding and can support you in all your probate needs at this time.

Whether you are seeking legal advice or wish them to act as executor of the will, they are on hand to help.

Why not contact them today to discuss what support you need with the process and see how they can help?

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Frequently Asked Questions About Probate


What happens when probate is granted?

Once you have received a letter of administration, or a grant of probate, on average it takes between 6 and 9 months to transfer all the assets, property and funds of an estate to the beneficiaries of a will.

Do you need probate if you have power of attorney?

Even if you had power of attorney during someone's lifetime, you do not automatically retain control of assets after death.

You will still have to apply for probate if someone's estate is valued over a certain amount.

How long does an executor of a will have to settle an estate?

On average it takes between 6 months and a year for the process of probate to be completed.

However, it can take longer in the event that an executor has delayed their duties or if the estate is particularly complicated.

If the executor fails to manage the estate correctly and distributes assets to the beneficiaries before the paying taxes or creditors they could be liable for any money that is still owed.

How much money before probate is required?

Each financial institution sets its own limit on what is required for probate, this ranges from £5,000 to £75,000.

It is a myth that you do not require probate if the estate is worth less than £15,000, although this can sometimes be the case.

Can an executor refuse to pay a beneficiary?

In the event that there are debts and money owed against the estate, items may have to be sold for cash that will be used to pay them.

This, in turn, may leave a beneficiary with no inheritance at all.

Can an executor of a will sell a property without all beneficiaries approving?

It depends on the language of the will if the will does not specifically disallow a sale, the executor of a will can sell a property without the consent of the beneficiaries.

Can the executor of a will keep all of the money?

Only if they are named as the sole beneficiary of the will. The executor of a will is supposed to distribute the assets, or money raised from sales of assets to the heirs.

Is probate necessary if there is a will?

If the assets of the deceased are solely in the deceased's name, then probate is required to transfer those assets to the beneficiaries of the will.

Do executors have to inform beneficiaries?

Executors do not have to inform the beneficiaries of a will until it comes to the point that they have to pay out.

With the exception of legal action, there is nothing that can be done to get the executor of a will to do the right thing, they do not need to employ a solicitor unless the will specifically states that they must.

Do beneficiaries of a will have any rights?

The beneficiaries of a will are afforded certain protections and rights under the law, this is afforded under the grant of probate.

The beneficiary does not own the property until the time the executor actually distributes the will.

Can an executor of a will spend the money?

In a valid will, the executor of the will is named. This is often a friend or family member of the deceased.

Sometimes these services can be paid for, however, they are not compensated by the beneficiaries directly.

Can an executor of a will be a beneficiary?

Yes. It is perfectly legal and normal for an executor of a will to also be a beneficiary of a will.

However, sometimes this is not the case.