What Is Probate?

Find out what probate is and who needs to apply for it

Last updated: 16 March 2017

If you are named as an executor in a will, you will need to apply for probate. Probate gives you the legal authority to manage a loved one’s estate after they die.

You need to be granted probate before you can start managing the estate according to the will. Managing the estate includes giving out inheritance money and gifts, settling debts, and selling property.

The legal authorisation to manage the estate of a loved one is sometimes referred to as ‘grant of representation’. This term can be used instead of both probate and letters of administration.

Applying for probate

To apply for probate you need to fill in the necessary forms and send them to your local Probate Registry. You need to fill in probate application form PA1 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or form C1 in Scotland. You can get help and advice on filling in the form by calling the inheritance tax and probate helpline.

There can be more than one executor named in the will. If this happens, only one of the executors needs to complete and send the forms to the Probate Registry.

Probate fees

If the estate being managed is valued under £5,000, you do not have to pay a probate fee. If the estate is valued at £5,000 or over, the executor is expected to pay a £215 fee.

Normally, costs attributed to managing of the estate are paid by the estate. However, as you will not yet have access to the estate’s money, the executor will need to pay the fee. You may then be able to reclaim this fee from the estate once probate has been granted.

Executors that need to get financial assistance to pay for this fee can do so by filling out the EX160 form.

Interview with the Probate Registry

The Probate Registry will contact the executor to arrange an interview. At this interview, the executor will have to verify the information on the legal paperwork before swearing an oath. This is an important part of applying for probate.

The executor must bring all of the relevant documentation and letters regarding the estate to this interview.

There is also the option for the executor to go to a probate solicitor’s office to recite the oath instead of traveling to the Probate Registry. This service will incur a small fee, but can be more convenient for some.

What happens next?

You will usually receive documents confirming that probate has been granted within 10 days of attending the interview.

Documents confirming that probate has been granted will be sent to the executor, as well as a letter stating how much inheritance tax is due. Within these documents you will find information about the gross worth and net worth of the estate.

The will and probate documents are considered public documents, so they can be examined by anyone who requests to see them.

As soon as you receive these documents, you can start managing the estate.

If the Probate Registry is not able to grant probate, you will receive an explanation in writing.

When probate is not required

In most cases, where there are properties in an estate, you will need probate. However, you do not need to apply for probate if the estate only includes:

  • Cash and personal possessions such as cars and jewellery
  • Property that is jointly-owned with a living person
  • Bank accounts that are jointly-owned with a living person
  • Debts that are greater in value than the assets
  • Life insurance policies and pension benefits