Apply for probate in the UK: a step-by-step guide

June 7, 2023

Probate is the legal process of sorting the estate (property, money and possessions) of someone who’s died. Whether you need it depends on the threshold set by the bank or financial organisation – this can be anywhere between £5,000 and £50,000. The probate registry charges £273 to apply and it usually takes 16 weeks to be granted.

Probate can be a daunting and stressful task, so our guide takes you through what to do and when, to make sure everything’s done right.

1) Register the death

In England and Wales, you need to register the death within 5 days. In Scotland, register within 8 days. Find the nearest Registrar’s Office local to the person who’s died. You’ll need to take the medical certificate which confirms the cause of death with you.

When you register the death, you can buy a death certificate for £11. It’s a good idea to order a few extra copies, as companies ask for this when transferring or closing accounts.

The registrar will give you a unique code to use with the ‘Tell us Once’ service. This lets you notify multiple departments in one go, like HMRC, DWP, DVLA and the local council.

Some other places to notify include:

  • Banks, building societies and credit card providers
  • Mortgage provider, landlord or council housing office
  • Land registry
  • Pension providers
  • Stocks and shares or premium bond providers
  • Insurance providers like life or home insurance
  • Utility bills: gas and electricity, water, TV licence and council tax
  • TV and internet
  • Dentist
  • Opticians
  • Social services or carers
  • Employer

Trustestate’s online search tool has contact information for these providers, so it’s easier to let the right team know. We can contact providers for you too.

When you speak to them, ask to settle any expenses and cancel any direct debits.

For subscriptions and deliveries, you can arrange a post redirection for ongoing mail and use the bereavement register or deceased preference service to stop unwanted direct mail.

2. Find out if there’s a Will and/or Letter Of Wishes

These might be online, with their solicitor, or printed and stored with other important documents. The will should name an executor, who’s responsible for sorting the estate and carrying out the person’s wishes.

If there’s no executor, or the named executor cannot or doesn’t want to act, the next of kin or beneficiaries can apply to be the administrator of the estate instead. If you can’t find a will or letter of wishes, that’s okay. Their estate will need to be shared out according to the rules of intestacy instead.

It’s also worth checking if the person who’s died had any pre-paid funeral plan arrangements or life insurance.

3. Value the estate

Once you’ve let organisations know about the person who’s died, you can start to build a more detailed picture of the estate’s assets and liabilities.

You’ll need an estimated value of the estate before you can apply for probate. Whether you need it depends on the threshold set by the bank or financial organisation – this can be anywhere between £5,000 and £50,000.

Trustestate lets you gather everything online in one place, rather than trying to keep track with pen and paper.

Find any documents to do with:

  • property
  • stocks
  • investments
  • bank accounts
  • pensions
  • personal items like vehicles and jewellery
  • debts
  • taxes
  • utility bills, credit cards, outstanding rent or mortgage, and so on

The value of assets can change over time, so it’s important to keep them up-to-date throughout the process. Some assets can be hard to value, especially sentimental things like antiques or art. You might need to hire a valuer or specialist to help with this.

4. Check if the estate is subject to inheritance tax

Before you apply for probate, check if the estate is subject to inheritance tax (IHT). You’ll need to pay 40% if the estate is worth more than £325,000.

Check out our guide on everything you need to know about inheritance tax in the UK, including how to minimise the tax you pay.

If IHT is due

Submit the form, pay the IHT and get a receipt from HMRC.

If IHT isn’t due

You’ll still need the estimated value of the estate to apply for probate.

5. Apply for probate

The probate registry charges a £273 application fee. You can apply yourself online or by post, or let Trustestate do it for you.

6. Get the grant of probate

You’ll usually get probate within 16 weeks. Sometimes it takes longer if you need to give more information. This is a legal document which means you have the authority to sort out the person’s estate. Extra copies of the probate document are £1.50 each.

Once you get probate, the Trustee Act recommends you place a ‘deceased estates notice’ in The Gazette and a local newspaper, to find creditors who might be owed money by the estate.

In England and Wales, creditors have 2 months and 1 day to make a claim against the estate. In Scotland it’s advised to wait 6 months before sorting the estate, for any creditor claims to come through.

7. Sort out the estate

This is often called estate administration or administering the estate. You’ll need to:

  • Send a copy of the grant of probate to all the providers you notified before
  • Open an executor account with your chosen bank (this lets you gather all the money in one place)
  • Close all accounts of the person who’s died and ask the providers to transfer any money or assets
  • List any properties for sale, if needed
  • Prepare the final estate accounts and keep a record for yourself
  • Using your executor account, pay off debts and pay the inheritance to beneficiaries according to wishes in the will
  • If there’s no will, share assets according to the rules of intestacy
  • Close down the executor’s bank account

Sorting the estate can be challenging but Trustestate can help

Probate and estate administration can be complicated, but it’s important to make sure it’s done correctly and follows the wishes of the person who’s died. Our platform lets you manage the whole probate and estate administration process online, from start to finish.

What we offer

Get a fixed quote upfront and claim the money back, or pay directly from, the estate. It’s cheaper and faster than a solicitor, so you can sort the estate efficiently and cost-effectively.

Grant of probate

We apply for you, using information you provide

From

£500*

Pay now, get the money back from the estate later

Book a free call

Complete probate

We apply for probate and sort the entire estate for you

From

£1,500*

No upfront fees, pay directly from the estate

Book a free call

*Extras:
HM Courts and Tribunals Service probate fee for estates over £5,000 - +£273.00
Additional grant of probate copies - +£1.50
Third-party services, such as an asset and liability search - Optional