After someone dies, their debts and taxes need to be paid, their bank accounts closed, and the estate will need to be transferred to their heirs. Applying for a grant of probate – a legal document proving your right to settle the affairs of someone who’s died – is necessary before you can move forward with this.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to apply for probate, how long it takes, and next steps after the grant arrives.

This guide covers:


Who can apply for probate?

If there is a will, the person named as the executor of the estate should be the one to apply for a grant of probate.

If no will exists, a close adult relative can apply for a letter of administration, which will grant them the same rights as a grant of probate would. The applicant is known as the administrator of the estate, rather than the executor.

Probate is time- and labour-intensive, so some people ask a professional to apply for probate and settle the estate on their behalf. You can find out more about this in our guide to probate fees.


How long do you have to apply for probate?

You’ll likely need to apply for probate within six months of the death of the person whose estate you’re dealing with.

Why? There’s no time limit when you can apply for probate after someone has died. But there is a six month time limit on starting to pay HMRC any inheritance tax (IHT).

Since you need to report the value of the estate to HMRC before applying for probate, and a grant of probate is sometimes needed to access bank accounts and pay IHT, most people tend to deal with these two processes together.


Preparing to apply for probate

Before applying for a grant of probate, you’ll need to report the value of the estate to HMRC. This applies whether or not inheritance tax is due. You’ll need to take into account:

  • The total value of any funds, property and belongings. To do this, you’ll need to reach out to the bank, pension providers and any other financial institutions holding assets. You’ll also need to get any property valued by an estate agent.
  • Any debts. Contact utility companies, loan companies, and mortgage and credit card providers to see how much (if anything) the person who has died owed to others.
  • Gifts. If the person who died gave gifts beyond the official allowance in the seven years before their death (don’t worry – birthday and Christmas gifts usually don’t count) these may be subject to IHT. Find out more about gifts and inheritance tax here.

You’ll need official copies of the death certificate and the will (if there is one) to get this information from various organisations. Once you have it, you’ll be able to establish whether any inheritance tax needs to be paid. You’ll also know whether a grant of probate or letter of administration is necessary.


How to get a grant of probate or letter of administration

The guide below covers how to apply for a grant of probate or letter of administration in England and Wales.


Applying for probate online

If the person who has died made a will, you may be able to apply for a grant of probate online. You’ll need:

  • An official copy of the death certificate (you will be asked to share a scanned image)
  • The original will
  • The application fee

You can only apply online if:

  • All the executors named in the will are alive and able to make their own decisions
  • The person who died spent most of their time in England and Wales

You can find out if you’re eligible for the online probate application process, and start your application, here.

Need a hand with your application? The UK Gov probate team run a helpline Mon-Fri on 0300 303 0648, 9.30-5.


Applying for probate by post

At the moment, you can’t apply for probate online if the person who died didn’t have a will, or if one of the executors has died. Instead, you can apply by post.

To get the grant of probate (or letter of administration), you’ll need to fill out a probate application form. Use PA1P if there is a will, or PA1A if not. You can download the forms here or request them from your nearest probate registry.

Once you’ve completed the correct form, you’ll need to send it to the address suggested, along with:

With the new forms you no longer need to swear an oath at a probate registry.


Applying for probate without a will

Applying for probate without a will is broadly the same process as applying for probate when there is a will. The difference is:

  • You apply by post, using form PA1A
  • Since there is no executor, a close relative needs to be the one who applies for permission to administer the estate
  • You’ll be given something called a letter of administration, which serves the same purpose as a grant of probate
  • The estate will also need to be settled according to intestacy law, rather than the wishes stated in a will


What happens after probate is granted?

Once you’ve completed the application, you should receive the grant of probate or letter of administration within 20 working days. If it’s refused, the probate office will contact you to tell you why this has happened.

Once you have the grant or letter, you’ll be able to access all the assets owned by the person who has died, pay any debts and taxes owed, and carry out the terms of the will (if there is one). You can find out more about what happens after probate is granted here.


Need help applying for probate? Talk to Beyond

We offer a range of fixed-fee estate administration services with prices starting at £695. Whether you just need a professional hand getting the grant of probate, or want a dedicated estate administration rep to take on the whole process of settling the estate for you, we have a service to suit your situation. And with all quotes guaranteed, what you see at the beginning is what’s you’ll pay: no nasty surprises.

To find out more and get a quote, call us today on 0800 054 9896 to speak to one of our probate experts.


Next in our probate series >> How Much Does Probate Cost? Probate Fees Explained

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