What does ‘probate’ mean, and what is the process like? Here you’ll find everything about probate explained simply. Questions? Give us a ring on 0800 054 9896 to speak to one of our probate advisors.


What is probate?

Also known as ‘estate administration’, probate is a legal term for the process of settling the estate of someone who has died – sorting out what happens to their money, property and other assets.

So, why is it called probate, and what does ‘probate a will’ mean? When someone dies and leaves a will, the executor(s) of the estate will usually apply for something called a grant of probate. This is a legal document that they can use to prove to banks and other organisations that they have the right to access the funds and assets of the person who has died.

Once the executor has the grant of probate, they can begin dividing up the estate according to the wishes stated in the will.

When someone dies without a will, the task of settling the estate usually falls to their next of kin: essentially, their closest family member. The family member who takes is on is known as the ‘administrator of the estate’ and will apply for a letter of administration before dividing up the estate. This document plays the same role as a grant of probate.

In both cases, people often choose to use a professional estate administration service to take care of probate on their behalf, as it can be very time-consuming and complicated.

NB: In Scotland, probate is called ‘confirmation’. Find out more about confirmation here.


What is probate for – do I need probate?

So that’s a simple probate meaning. Now: do you need it?

The probate process is tough to avoid. If the person who has died owned property, shares or more than £5,000, you will likely need either a grant of probate or letter of administration (both types of ‘grant of representation’) if you want to transfer those things over to someone else.

That’s not to say a grant of representation is always needed. Sometimes you can settle the estate without one, especially if it’s small. You can find out more about whether you need probate using our guide here: ‘When is probate required?’


What is the probate process? Probate explained

What is the probate process like? In most cases, it can be broken down into 10 steps:

  1. Gathering information and finding out the value of the estate. Contacting banks, the Department of Work and Pensions, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) and creditors, among others, to find out the full value of the estate and any property.
  2. Completing inheritance tax forms. You need to report the value of the estate to HMRC whether inheritance tax is due or not. You can find out more about how to do this here.
  3. Applying for a grant of probate (or letters of administration). If the person who died made a will, you can do this online. If not, you can apply by post. If your application is successful, you should hear back in 20 working days.
  4. Closing accounts and gathering funds. When people ask what probate is for, the answer is this. With the grant of probate in hand, you can now reach out to all the places that the person who died had or owed money to close their accounts and collect funds. This includes banks, pension providers, mortgage companies and energy companies.
  5. Paying for the funeral. This is usually the first payment made. Some banks will release money for a funeral without a grant of probate if the amount is below a certain limit. This varies depending on the bank. While waiting for funds to be released, you can get a loan to cover funeral costs.
  6. Paying debts. If any exist, that is. At this stage, a good probate provider will also try to start releasing funds to beneficiaries of the will.
  7. Selling and giving out assets. Things like shares will need to either be sold or given to the person who is set to inherit them – either the next of kin or beneficiaries of the will.
  8. Selling or transferring property. If the deceased left property, this can now be given to whoever is set to inherit it and sold if necessary.
  9. Dealing with income tax, settling inheritance tax. When you tell HMRC about a death, they will let you know whether you’ll need to complete an income tax return. At this stage, you can also confirm your inheritance tax payment position and reclaim anything that was unnecessary.
  10. Giving out funds and further assets. The final stage is giving out funds, belongings and any remaining assets to those entitled to them (either the will beneficiaries or next of kin, if there’s no will).


How can we help you with the probate process?

Need a hand? Beyond’s expert probate team can help you with all aspects of estate administration, from applying for a grant of probate to quickly handing out funds and even handling house sales. And with a flexible range of probate services to choose from, you’ll only ever pay for the help you really need.

All our services are fixed-price no matter what happens during the probate process – so you can trust that the price you see is the price you’ll pay in the end. Click here to request a call back or give us a ring on 0800 054 9896 to find out more.


Next in our probate series >> When is probate required?

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