What Is Probate?

Many terms, such as probate, crop up when writing Wills and planning for later life. Left undefined, probate can seem somewhat confusing. However, it is simpler than it seems on the surface.

In this blog, we cover some of the ins and outs of probate, including why it is necessary and how much it may cost.

Probate Defined

According to solicitors, probate refers to the legal and financial process of dealing with the assets of a person who has passed away. It essentially proves that a Will is valid and confers authority to the person administering the Estate.

However, the person or next of kin named Executor may have to apply for a Grant of Probate before distributing money or property, for example. This permits them to begin parcelling out assets according to the wishes of the Will.

Although the probate process varies depending on the instructions left in the Will and the Estate’s financial situation, the basic process runs as follows:

  1. The named Executor gathers details of the assets and debts of the Estate. They may also need to gather identity documents if an individual has passed away before creating a Will.
  2. To begin administering the Estate, the Executor applies for a Grant of Probate.
  3. The Executor completes an Inheritance Tax return and pays any tax due on the Estate, which is required even if it falls under the threshold of Inheritance Tax.
  4. The Grant of Probate is received, and the Executor pays any outstanding debts and distributes the remaining assets according to the Will.

When Is Probate Required?

Probate is required in various situations, such as:

  • When a person who owns property passes away
  • When requested by a bank to allow the Executor to distribute finances
  • When a person passes away before creating a Will

In the case of no Will, a Grant of Administration (sometimes called a letter of administration) will be given instead.

There are some situations in which probate may not be needed, such as when jointly owned property and money passes to a spouse or civil partner. However, this is a complex area of the law, and it is vital to seek legal advice if you are unsure about how this works.

How Long Does Probate Take?

The probate process can be lengthy as it depends on the size and complexity of the Estate, for example, how much property or foreign property is owned. Disputes between Executors, beneficiaries, or tax authorities may arise during the process, which can further delay the administration of the Estate.

Usually, probate takes around a year to complete, but it can take up to two years for larger Estates with international holdings. Executors should receive the Grant of Probate or letters of administration within eight weeks of application, although this can take up to fourteen weeks with delays. Therefore, probate must be applied for as soon as possible to minimise the impact of potential hold-ups.

Probate can also be contested, leading to further obstructions in executing the Estate. Contests can be presented in several ways, such as a beneficiary or relative of the deceased entering a caveat. This may happen if two people are entitled to apply for probate or if the legitimacy of the Will is questioned. The person who places the caveat must state their reasons for doing so within eight days, or it will be removed, and probate will move forward.

The Cost of Probate

There is an upfront cost when applying for probate:

  • £155 if applying through a solicitor
  • £215 if undertaking probate yourself

However, it should be noted that Estates worth less than £5,000 pay no probate fee. Once the Grant of Probate has been ordered, additional copies are available for a small fee, which is worth investing in as the administration process requires several copies.

Although it may be tempting to go through the process alone, investing in a specialist or solicitor may be a better solution. If any mistakes are made throughout the process or if you are dealing with a particularly complex Estate, opting to go through the probate process with a bank or specialist may have a costly upfront cost. Still, it could help save money by reducing the risk of mistakes and ensuring that the administration of the Estate runs smoothly.


Simply put, probate refers to the legalities of administering a Will, and it proves the Executors have the authority to carry out any wishes detailed. Although it can be completed without legal help, consulting a professional can streamline the probate process and reduce expenses in the future.

If you have further questions about probate, do not hesitate to contact our expert paralegals here at The Planning Bee. Arrange a no-obligation consultation today to find out more about our services.

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