The term “Grant of Probate” or “Probate” is probably a term that many of us have come across, although it may not be a term that everyone understands fully. There is often confusion regarding whether Probate is something that always needs to be obtained when someone dies.

First things first, what is Probate?

A Grant of Probate is an order of the Court to confirm that the Executors named in a Will are the correct people to deal with the estate of someone who has died. The Grant of Probate gives the Executors the legal right to deal with the assets including property, bank accounts, shares etc.

A Grant of Probate has several other names depending on the circumstances, for example where there is no Will and the deceased has therefore died intestate, it is called a Grant of Letters of Administration. Although the names may change the document is essentially the same and authorises the applicant to deal with the assets.

Do I need to take out a Grant of Probate?

It is not always necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate and whether one is needed or not will depend on the assets of the person who has died. The type of thing that can trigger the need to obtain Probate include:-

  • If the deceased owned land in their sole name, or held land jointly as tenants in common (which means their share passes under their Will).
  • If the deceased had savings in the bank of more than around £15,000. Unfortunately each bank has its own rules, for example the Post Office will only allow you to have £15,000 before they ask for Probate whereas Nationwide will allow you to deal with the accounts as long as there is less than £30,000.
  • If the deceased held savings certificates or premium bonds with National Savings & Investments of more than £5,000.
  • If the deceased owned shares in their sole name worth more than £5,000 (or sometimes £10,000 depending upon the share registrar).
  • If the deceased is due to receive a lump sum from a pension provider or life insurance policy the organisations often request sight of the Grant of Probate.

It is important to bear in mind that any assets held in joint names, unless held as tenants in common as mentioned above, will automatically pass to the surviving co-owner/s – if this is not what you would like to happen then the money should ideally be moved into a sole account.

How we can help

If you have been named as an Executor, or are next of kin to someone who has died without a Will please do not hesitate to contact Shirah Blackwood in our Wills, Trusts & Estates team to discuss administration of the estate.