When Do You Need Probate?
The term ‘probate’ is widely used in the context of estate administration, but not many people understand what it means or are sure when probate is needed. Probate describes the process through which the estate of a deceased person is distributed in accordance with their Will, and the document evidencing the executors’ rights to do so is known as a ‘Grant of Probate’. A Grant of Probate is often required before the executors can commence estate administration, but this is not always the case. So, when do you need probate? Does an estate need to be over a certain value before the executors require a Grant of Probate? If so, how much money is involved before probate is required? Are there any other circumstances in which you might not need a Grant of Probate to administer an estate?
When Is Probate Required In The UK?
The executors’ powers are conferred by the Will itself. However, unless the estate in question is particularly small or simple, they often require the permission of the Court through a Grant of Probate before they can carry out their duties.
A Grant of Probate is required in the UK if the executors need to deal with estate property, such as selling the deceased’s house. The Court will not grant any Orders applied for by the executors in the absence of a Grant and most banks and building societies require one before they will release funds over a specified amount. The exact amount is at the discretion of the financial institution in question.
There are, however, circumstances in which a Grant of Probate might not be required. These include the following:
- All estate property is owned jointly, with a spouse for example. In these cases, ownership will automatically pass to the other owner.
- The estate comprises only cash (not held in bank accounts) and personal effects such as jewellery and cars.
- All bank accounts are jointly owned.
- The amount of money involved is particularly small.
How Much Money Is Involved Before A Grant Of Probate Is Required?
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to the regularly asked question, ‘how much money is involved before probate is required?’ Different banks and building societies are at liberty to set their own probate limits. These can differ considerably between institutions and range from £5,000 to £50,000.
To establish whether the financial institution at which the deceased held accounts will require sight of a Grant of Probate before releasing funds, the executors should write to the institution in question to ascertain their policy.
Do I Need A Solicitor To Obtain A Grant Of Probate?
You can apply for a Grant of Probate without the assistance of a solicitor. The application can usually be made by completing an online form. However, there is often a significant amount of complicated preparatory work to be undertaken before the application can be made. Such work includes valuing the estate, ascertaining any inheritance tax liability and liaising with HMRC. Further, the application needs to be complete and accurate to avoid delays. Accordingly, many executors choose to seek expert legal help with the application process.
Once the Grant of Probate has been received and the executors commence estate administration, their legal duties can be extensive and arduous. Since executors can be held personally liable for any mistakes, the ramifications of any errors or wrongdoing can be severe. The assistance of expert probate solicitors can be invaluable for executors wishing to ensure they perform their duties properly and to the standard required by law.
How Our Probate Solicitors Can Help
We have assisted a significant number of executors in applying for Grants of Probate and carrying out their estate administration duties. Our comprehensive probate service covers evert aspect of probate and includes the following:
- reviewing the Will
- identifying the executors
- ascertaining the type of probate application required
- preparing and lodging the necessary paperwork
- obtaining the Grant of Probate
- completing the inheritance tax paperwork and liaising with HMRC on your behalf
- distributing the estate assets in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.
In the case of a straightforward estate with only UK assets, our fees are usually based on the value of the estate and are 1.5% plus VAT of its gross value subject to a minimum charge of £1,500 plus VAT. If the estate is more complicated, we will provide an estimate of costs when we have had a chance to review the documentation.
Disbursements are payable in addition to our fees. Disbursements include expenses such as Court fees and valuations. Additional fees are chargeable for work such as the sale or transfer of any estate property, and if the probate becomes contested. In these cases, we will alert you to the additional fees as soon as they become apparent, and provide ongoing costs estimates to ensure you are kept fully up to date on fees at all times.