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What is a Grant of Probate?

View profile for Bill Pollinger
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A Grant of Probate is the legal document that allows you to administer the estate of a loved one who has passed away. There are some circumstances when this may not be needed, and if there is not a Will then you will need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration. Bill Pollinger, Executive in our Private Client department, explains here what this legal document is, how to apply for it and how we can help you understand your role in carrying out the probate and estate administration.

How do I apply for a Grant of Probate?

If you are named as the Executor in a person’s Will, it will be your responsibility to apply for the Grant of Probate. All of a person’s assets are frozen upon their death, so the Grant of Probate is needed to allow these assets to be collected and later distributed to the beneficiaries as set out in the Will and to allow you to manage any other actions, such as paying outstanding debts or selling property.

There are several steps to follow after their death, which include:

  1. Register their death – before you can apply for the Grant of Probate you will need to register the person’s death.  If you live in England, this is within five days of their passing.  We would recommend you request extra copies of the death certificate as these may be required in dealing with the institutions and organisations in the coming weeks and months.  This will enable you to write to more than one institution at the same time rather than waiting for the return of the death certificate if you have only purchased one certificate.
  2. Estate valuation – when applying for the Grant of Probate, you will need to include a valuation of the person’s estate.  This is to determine factors such as whether Inheritance Tax may be due.  You will need to contact:
    1. Banks and building societies to ascertain the balance in their accounts and the value of investments, stocks and shares or savings bonds they may have at the date of death as well as any debts, credit cards, mortgages.  Banks or building society statements should be looked at which might indicate large amounts which may be gifts that have been made in their lifetime.  You should also investigate what gifts have been made with family members to confirm this.
    2. Department of Work and Pensions regarding the state pension and any work pension(s) providers to find out their pension arrangements.  Ascertain any balance of pension due or repayable and the pension paid for the tax period with the amount of tax deducted.
    3. Insurance companies about policies of insurance to confirm the value of any policies that have been taken out, whether the premiums were in arrears and when they are due to expire.
    4. Estate agent or a surveyor to have any properties they owned valued via free market appraisals.  In addition to valuing the property, you will also need to value any other assets they have, such as jewellery or antiques for example.
  3. Complete IHT205 if the estate is not liable to Inheritance Tax and IHT400 if the estate is liable to Inheritance Tax.  You will then need to calculate and pay any Inheritance Tax due to HMRC before you apply for probate – Inheritance Tax on the property can be postponed by electing to pay by instalments and just paying the tax on the other assets. 
  4. Once you have a receipt on form IHT421 from HMRC then using that form you can apply for the Grant of Probate, or Letter of Administration if there is no Will, and pay the appropriate fee.  The probate application fee for England and Wales is £215, regardless of the size of the estate.

Once the Inheritance Tax has been paid and the Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration has been issued, you will be confirmed as the Personal Representative of the estate and thus able to administer the estate.

Should I complete probate myself?

While this application process may seem straightforward, you need to consider that you will be carrying out this research and work while you are grieving, and you must be meticulous in your valuations, otherwise you could be held personally responsible for any errors or miscalculations. If there is no Will or if the estate is particularly complex with several properties, Trusts or debts outstanding, it can become even more time consuming and complicated. 

“We would always recommend you seek legal advice before applying for the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration”, explains Bill. “Even if you do not proceed in using the solicitor to complete the application for you, and the subsequent administration of the estate, this initial meeting will help you understand your responsibilities and the task ahead of you. We can also help you in foreseeing any complications along the way and can estimate how long it may take to receive the Grant of Probate, which can take from a few months to a year, depending on the nature and size of the estate, and the number of different organisations that need to be contacted.”

We offer a free 30 minute appointment to those who are faced with the task of applying for probate; to book your appointment today, contact us on 01329 222075 or email privateclientenquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk.

Alternatively, you may find the following resources useful: