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A Simple Guide to Probate

What is probate?

Probate is the process of administering someone’s estate after their death. This process includes dividing the estate up according to instructions left in the will as well as ensuring all relevant taxes and debts are paid. You can read our definition of wills and probate here.

Do you always need probate?

In short – no. Whether or not you need probate depends on whether the deceased made a valid will, or if assets were jointly owned, and their value.

When is probate required?

Probate is usually needed in England or Wales if the deceased owned property, or if a bank or other financial institution asks for a grant of probate.

How much money before probate is required?

This depends on the different banks and financial organisations as each has their own threshold on how much money can be released before requesting a grant of probate. Generally, probate is needed if the estate is valued at £5,000 or more, but each case is different, and you should always seek advice.  

Is probate required if there is a will?

Probate, although described as the process of dealing with a deceased’s estate, actually depends on whether the deceased left a valid will.

If there is a will and probate is needed then the executor can apply for a grant of probate. If there is no will, then the administrator will need to apply for a grant of letters of administration.

When is probate not required?

According to, you may not need probate if, the person who died had jointly owned land, property, shares or money as these will automatically pass to the surviving owners, or if they only had savings. However, we advise checking with each of the financial organisations the deceased used in order to find out whether you’ll need probate to access their assets. Every organisation has its own rules.

The process of probate:

  • Register the death – the death should be registered within 5 days at the local registry office.
  • Find the original will and notify any other executors. We recommend seeking advice from a probate solicitor throughout this process. A probate solicitor can help you work through all the steps of probate – obtaining a grant of probate, inheritance tax advice and estate distribution, thus ensuring that nothing is missed, and all your questions are answered.
  • Before applying for probate estimate and report the value of the estate of the deceased to find out if you need to pay inheritance tax.
  • You can apply for probate once you have filed the applicable inheritance tax.
  • You will need to send copies of the death certificate to banks, building societies and insurance companies to ask them to stop any direct debits or payments.
  • Pay any outstanding debts and place a deceased estates notice to protect against creditors.
  • Once all debts are paid, distribute the assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the will.

Should I use a solicitor for probate?

You can administer the deceased’s estate on your own as an executor or a next of kin. However, the administration of an estate can be complex. We’d advise you to seek a solicitor’s advice if:

  • There are doubt about the validity of the will.
  • The deceased died without a will and it is a complicated or larger estate to administer.
  • The estate has complex arrangements, such as assets held in a trust.
  • The estate includes foreign property or foreign assets.
  • The value of the estate is over the Inheritance Tax threshold and has to pay the Inheritance Tax to HMRC.
  • There are disputes among beneficiaries.

How we can help:

Our team at Shaar Bridge offers a probate service that ensures you are working with an experienced probate solicitor. We are a diverse, skilled team of solicitors in Bedford, and we would like to be here for you during this difficult time, making sure the wishes of the deceased are carried out according to the will quickly and cost efficiently.

You can find more information about our probate service here.