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 apply for probate, how long it takes, and next steps after the grant arrives.


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. They are then known as the administrator of the estate.

Probate is time- and labour-intensive, so some people choose to ask professionals 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?

Applying for probate can seem intimidating, especially when you’re grieving. There is no set time limit to apply for probate after someone has died. However, there is a time limit on starting to pay inheritance tax (IHT), which needs to be done within six months of the death.

Since the executor or administrator of the estate will need to assess the value of any assets left behind for both inheritance tax and the probate application, it’s best to do both of those things together. This means that in practice, people tend to apply for probate within six months.


Preparing to apply for probate

Before applying for probate, you will need to find out how large the estate is, taking 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. Once you have it, you’ll be able to establish whether any inheritance tax needs to be paid and whether probate is necessary.


How to get a grant of probate

To get the grant of probate, you or your representative will need to fill out the probate application form (form PA1 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, C1 for confirmation in Scotland), which can be downloaded or requested from the nearest probate registry. You’ll also need to fill out an inheritance tax form, even if you think no IHT is owed.

These forms should be sent to the local probate registry, along with:

  • An official copy of the death certificate
  • The original will and three copies, including all official additions or changes
  • The application fee of £215, unless the estate is valued under £5,000

The probate registry will then send an oath, which you will need to swear either at a local probate office or at a local Commissioner for Oaths. Once you’ve done this, you should receive the grant of probate within two to five weeks. If it’s refused, the probate office will write to you to tell you why this has happened.

Usually, you would expect to receive your grant of probate 14-21 days after your application arrives at the probate office. The whole process from valuing the estate to receiving your grant usually takes about three months, unless the estate is particularly complicated.

If the person who has died left a will, you may be able to apply for probate online. Call HMRC to find out if you’re eligible for this.


How do you apply for probate if there’s no will?

Applying for probate without a will is broadly the same process as applying for probate when there is a will. The difference is that since there is no executor, a close relative needs to be the one who applies for permission to administer the estate.

Once they have it, they’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 have the grant of probate or letter of administration, you’ll be able to access all the assets, pay any debts and taxes owed, and carry out the other 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 £650. 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 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, click here or 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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