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What Is Probate

View profile for Joanne Gibson
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The word probate is used to describe the process involved in dealing with the administration of a person’s estate when they have died. Probate can also be used to describe the legal document giving authority to the person or persons to administer the deceased’s estate.

If there is a Will the document is called a Grant of Probate and if there isn’t a Will the document is called a Grant of Letters of Administration. Both documents can be referred to as a Grant of Representation.

Who applies for Probate?

If the deceased left a valid Will, it is the Executor or Executors named in the Will who will have the authority to apply for probate and the document is called a Grant of Probate.

If the deceased did not leave a valid Will then the rules of intestacy dictate who has the authority to apply for probate and the document is called a Grant of Letters of Administration. The person granted authority to administer the estate is referred to as the Administrator. Who can apply is determined by a strict order of priority of living relative/s.

What is an Executor?

Executors are those individuals or professionals named in a Will who are responsible for dealing with the administration of the deceased’s estate. If there is no Will is it the Administrators, determined by the Intestacy Rules, who are responsible for administering the estate of a deceased person.

Is Probate always necessary? 

It is not always necessary to apply for a Grant to deal with the administration of an estate. This will be determined by the assets in the estate and their value. Assets held as beneficial joint tenants such as jointly held bank accounts, investments and properties pass automatically to the surviving co-owners, by what is referred to as survivorship.

For most estates is will be necessary to apply for a Grant to deal with at least some of the estate’s assets, unless the estate is very simple, with few lower value assets. 

How do I apply for Probate?

The application for either a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration must be made to the Probate Registry. You can make a personal application or instruct a solicitor to make the application on your behalf.

► To find out more read our blog What is the Grant of Probate?

How much does it cost to apply for Probate?

There is an application fee payable to the Probate Registry when the application is submitted and the fee currently payable for applications submitted by a “professional” are £273 plus £1.50 for every additional copy you require. You can make a personal application, but you may wish to consider instructing a solicitor to ensure all issues are considered and the application is made correctly. 

When should I apply for Probate?

There is not a legal time frame in which the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration should be applied for. However, it is much easier to obtain and provide the information required regarding the assets and liabilities of the estate nearer the time of death, than months or even years after.

Although there is no time frame in which the Grant should be obtained, there are deadlines which must be met as part of the estate administration such as paying tax, and often penalties imposed, or other consequences for missing such deadlines. 

It will be necessary to be in possession of the Grant before being able to deal with many aspects of the estate administration, including closing some bank accounts, selling property etc.

► Read our blog When Probate Goes Wrong.

How long does Probate take?

The length of time the probate process takes, to administer a person’s estate, depends on a number of factors but it is not uncommon for the entire process to exceed a year, even for relatively straightforward estates. Some estates can take several years to be fully administered. 

Applications for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration take approximately 16 weeks to be processed by the Probate Registry. However, some applications do seem to take longer.

Do I need a Solicitor for Probate? 

It is possible to deal with the administration of a person’s estate personally without the involvement of a solicitor, including making an application for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. However, the legal responsibilities and duties of the person entitled to administer an estate are extremely wide reaching and executors/administrators can be held personally and financially responsible for any errors in dealing with the estate. We would therefore always recommend that you seek professional legal advice, to ensure you are fulfilling your duties and responsibilities when administering an estate.


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About the Author

Joanne joined Thornton Jones Solicitors in May 2022, bringing a wealth of experience to our Private Client department.

Since qualifying as a Solicitor in 2009 Joanne has worked in the private client sector and has become a specialist in many areas of non-contentious private client work, particularly Wills, Estate Administration, Lasting Powers of Attorney, and Court of Protection applications.

After leaving her hometown to study at University and Law School in Surrey, Joanne returned to her roots here in Yorkshire to settle down and loves being able to work within the local community and helping local people.

There are never two days the same in the life of a private client lawyer and I enjoy the variety of work. I enjoy helping people from all walks-of-life deal with a variety of legal matters, often during extremely emotionally challenging times.

At home Joanne is kept more than busy with her daughter, her dog and her tripod cat. Any free time she has, she enjoys long walks with the dog, socialising with friends and family, dreaming of holidays in the sun and being an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friend.

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The content of this blog post is for information only and does not constitute formal legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no liability for any such reliance upon this content. Where the post includes links to external websites, Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no responsibility for the content of such sites. Any link to a third party website should not be construed as endorsement by Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited of any content, products or services which are outside our direct control. 

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