Probate meaning

Probate (short for 'grant of probate') is a legal document that confirms to banks, the Land Registry, and other institutions that you have the authority to deal with someone's estate. Probate might take anywhere from one to three months to obtain.

Lydia Blake avatar

Lydia Blake

07 January 2022

One of the most difficult things any of us will ever have to go through is losing a loved one, and having to apply for probate is a big part of that. However, before you begin your application, you must first comprehend the nature of probate, the major processes involved, and the numerous documents you may be required to submit.

What does probate mean?

Probate is a legal document that is required in around half of all deaths in the United Kingdom. It's used to prove to banks, the Land Registry, and other institutions that you have the authority to handle a person's estate.

What is probate?

A grant of probate is a legal document that establishes your authority to manage someone's estate. If you're the executor of a will, you may need to file for a grant of probate to gain access to the estate. You'll be able to sell property, pay off debts, liquidate accounts, and distribute assets according to the will once it's been authorised.

The process explained

Obtaining probate might take anywhere from one to three months.

Dealing with the estate can take another 3-6 months, but if no property needs to be sold, this can be completed sooner.

The following is a rundown of the essential steps in the probate procedure:

Step 1: Determining whether or not you require probate

Probate is only required in 50 percent of deaths in the United Kingdom, therefore the first step is to determine whether you require it.

Probate is frequently required in the following situations:

  • The estate is valued at more than £10,000 in total.

  • There are a lot of assets in the estate that are solely owned.

Step 2: Gathering information about the estate

Once you've determined that you require probate, locate the will (if one exists) and compile a list of your loved one's assets. This contains items such as:

  • Property

  • Bank accounts

  • Savings accounts

  • Pensions

  • Insurances (Life insurance)

  • Stocks and shares

  • Debts

  • Any gifts given in the last seven years

After that, you'll need to call banks and other institutions to determine the worth of each item in the estate.

Step 3: Applying for probate

If you decide to appraise the estate yourself, you'll need to file for probate. Depending on your case, you'll need to fill out a probate application form as well as inheritance tax forms IHT205, IHT217 (if the date of death is on or after January 1, 2022), or IHT400.

Because these documents can be somewhat complicated, most people opt to have a solicitor or a professional probate company handle it for them.

Simpwill has teamed up with Countrywide Tax and Trust Corporation who specialise in all form of professional estate planning needs, including probate.

Step 4: Attaining the grant of probate

It normally takes 3-6 weeks for your application to be granted after it is submitted to the probate registry. This can take significantly longer if the forms have a few errors or there is a backlog at the register.

This will be sent to you once your application has been approved.

Step 5: Dealing with the estate admin

Dealing with the estate administration is the final step in the probate process. This normally takes 3-6 months and entails tasks such as:

  • Filling out an inheritance tax return and paying any taxes owed, including inheritance tax, income tax, and capital gains tax

  • Putting the house up for sale and managing the sale – or handing the property to beneficiaries

  • Closing bank accounts and putting all of your money in one place

  • Getting in touch with pension providers to gain access to funds

  • Making a claim on a life insurance policy

  • Taking care of any outstanding bills owed by the deceased.

  • Giving the money to the beneficiaries

What is a grant of letters of administration?

A grant of letters of administration is a legal document that establishes your power to manage someone else's estate. A grant of letters of administration differs from a grant of probate in that it is required in estates when there is no will. It may also be necessary if a will exists but the executors are unable to manage the estate. A grant of letters of administration with a will attached is known as a grant of letters of administration with will annexed.

You may need to seek for a grant of letters of administration before you may deal with a loved one's assets if they died lately and you stand to inherit the majority of their inheritance under intestacy statutes. You'll be appointed as the estate's administrator as part of this procedure.

What's the difference between a full estate administration and a probate?

When comparing probate solicitor rates, you'll likely discover a wide range of costs ranging from the hundreds to the thousands. That's because when applying for probate, you have two options: obtaining a grant of probate (or grant of letters of administration) or completing a full estate administration.

Full estate administration

Everything that goes into obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration, as well as all the paperwork that occurs before and after, is included in full estate administration. Paying off debts and inheritance taxes, selling property, shutting bank accounts and collecting funds, claiming on life insurance policies, and distributing funds to beneficiaries are all examples of this.

Because each estate is unique, the cost of Complete Probate service varies by case.


  • Probate is a legal document that authorises you to manage someone's estate.

  • It's required in about half of all deaths in the UK, and it can be required whether or not there is a will.

  • Probate normally takes between one and three months to complete. Dealing with the estate can take another 3-6 months.

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