Probate – What is it and when do you need it?


While you may or may not be aware of probate, this plays a key role in settling estates nationwide every single year in the UK.

From April to June 2021, for example, there were 62,312 applications for probate grants in the UK, with 54,047 of these issued during the same period.

But what exactly do we mean by probate, and when do you need it? Here’s a breakdown to help you on your way!

What is Probate?

You’ll have to apply for probate when you’re named as an executor in somebody’s will, with this describing a legal document that gives you the authority to distribute the deceased person’s estate according to their specific instructions.

However, you don’t always have to apply for probate when your partner or loved one passes away. In fact, there are various factors that will dictate whether or not you require probate, including the ownership of the assets in question.

For example, if the deceased’s assets were jointly owned with a spouse, their share will automatically pass to the surviving partner. In the case of a house, this will only apply in instances where the partners were joint beneficial joint tenants by law.

The same principle applies if the estate is small and worth £5,000 or under, in which case it’s not particularly cost-effective to initiate the complex and often time-consuming process of probate. 

What About When There Are Multiple Properties Involved?

You’re also unlikely to need probate if the estate in question comprises mere cash and personal possessions (such as furniture, jewellery or a car).

However, the situation changes and becomes slightly more complex when flats or houses or involved, particularly if they were solely owned by the deceased.

In this case, you’ll probably need to apply for probate and issue letters of administration to deal with and distribute the estate, ensuring that such assets are distributed in accordance with the will and its instructions.

The Last Word

Ultimately, the best course of action is to contact the relevant financial institutions associated with the deceased and their estate as soon as possible. This way, you can determine whether or not probate is required and potentially save time when managing the estate.

This is an important consideration, particularly as the process of probate typically takes between four and eight weeks to complete after the submission of your application.

This timeframe can be extended in complex cases, so it’s important to act decisively and take steps to minimise delays where you can.

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