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Dealing with someone’s affairs when they die

  • Applying for probate gives you the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their estate) when they die.

    In England and Wales, there are two types of grants which give you this legal right:

    • grant of probate – if the person left a will
    • grant of letters of administration – if the person did not leave a will

    Both these documents are often referred to as grants of representation. In both circumstances, the application process is the same.

    A solicitor can help you apply for probate by:

    • making the process easier
    • making sure you do not get penalties if you submit the wrong information

    Find out more about using a solicitor

    If the person left a will

    Most people name an executor when they write a will. An executor deals with the person’s estate when they die.

    If you’re the executor, you’ll need to find out whether to apply for a grant of probate.

    A grant of probate is an official document issued by the probate registry (part of the HM Courts & Tribunal Service). It gives you the legal right to deal with the estate of the person who died.

    If you’re the executor but you do not want to or cannot act, you can:

    Find your local probate registry

    You can have up to four executors and you must all agree who applies for probate. You can only submit one application.

    If the person did not name an executor in their will, the probate court will appoint someone.

    If the person did not leave a will

    If the person did not leave a will you can apply to be an administrator of their estate. This gives you the legal right to deal with the person’s estate when they die.

    You can usually apply to be an administrator if you:

    • are their next of kin (usually a close relative)
    • were married to them, or
    • were in a civil partnership with them

    To apply to be an administrator of an estate you follow the same steps as applying for probate.

    If successful, you’ll get a grant of letters of administration.

    When to apply for probate

    You may not need to apply for probate if the person who died:

    • only had savings or premium bonds – some banks and building societies will release money without needing probate or letters of administration
    • had jointly owned land, property, shares or money

    You may need to apply for probate to administer the estate of the person who died if they left:

    • more than £5,000
    • stocks and shares
    • a house or land, or
    • certain insurance policies

    However, some financial organisations may require a grant before giving you access to less than £5,000.

    Before applying for probate, a solicitor can help you estimate the estate's value and report it to HM Revenue & Customs. Depending on the value, you may have to pay inheritance tax. Read about inheritance tax on GOV.UK

    Using a solicitor

    Applying for probate is time consuming and can be frustrating.

    A solicitor can guide you through the stages of applying for probate. For example, they can:

    • tell you if you need to apply for probate
    • value the estate
    • submit inheritance tax forms to HMRC
    • apply for a grant of representation for you
    • collect the assets of the estate
    • make sure the estate is distributed accurately

    Find a solicitor

    Find a solicitor in England and Wales using our free website

    Choose ‘wills, trust and probate’ as your legal issue to find a probate solicitor.

    If you need help using our Find a Solicitor website, call us on 020 7320 5650 (Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm).

    Costs

    Probate fees

    If the value of the estate is under £5,000, there’s no fee.

    If the value of the estate is over £5,000, the application fee to apply for probate is:

    • £215 if you apply yourself
    • £155 if you use a solicitor

    The cost of probate is currently under review by government. We’re strongly opposed to the proposed fee increase. See our probate fees campaign for more information

    Solicitor fees

    Charges for using a solicitor can vary depending on what’s involved in administering the estate. Your solicitor should tell you what the costs are likely to be before carrying out any work.

    After you’ve applied

    Grant of probate

    You’ll usually get a grant of probate within eight weeks, but there are currently delays with the probate service. Your solicitor must make any claims against the estate within six months from the date probate is granted. Read more about claims to the estate on GOV.UK

    The estate

    Dealing with the estate can take about a year. The estate cannot be dealt with until all claims against it have been received.

    Stop a probate application

    You can stop a probate application if there’s a dispute about:

    • whether a will exists
    • who can apply for probate

    To stop a probate application, you need to “enter a caveat”. This prevents anyone else getting a grant of probate until the dispute is resolved.

    A solicitor can help prepare a caveat and send it to the probate registry. The fee to enter a caveat is £20. The caveat will last six months but it can be renewed.