Do I Need Probate?

11 April 2017

By Probate Solicitor Rachel Curtis

Unsure whether you need probate? Why not try our handy Do I Need Probate Questionnaire.

When someone dies, their loved ones will need to wind-up their affairs. This can include closing bank accounts, selling property and distributing assets to the beneficiaries.

However, you have to get the legal authority to do these things. After all, the bank doesn’t want to release funds to the wrong person. That’s why when someone passes away, you have to go through a process called Probate.

At the end of the Probate process you will receive a legal document called a Grant of Probate, and this will give you the legal authority to deal with the deceased persons’ Estate.

Is Probate Always Needed?

No, there are occasions when Probate is not needed. Below are some different situations, explaining whether or not Probate is required.

Probate When a Husband or Wife has Died

Generally, when a husband and wife or civil partners own assets jointly, everything will pass to the surviving spouse. So if your husband or wife has passed away, and you owned everything jointly as Joint Tenants, the assets will automatically pass to you. This means Probate is not needed.

However, there are times when, for example, a property is not owned as Joint Tenants. For instance, a property could be in the deceased person’s sole name, or owned as Tenants in Common. If so, you’ll need to get a Grant of Probate to transfer the property into your own name. For more detailed information see Probate Joint Tenancy and Tenants in Common Explained.

Probate for Small Estates

If someone has a small Estate, it’s possible that Probate will not be needed. An Estate is everything the deceased person owned when he or she died. This can include property, money in the bank, stocks and shares, and investments. If your loved one only had a small amount of money in their bank account, with no other financial assets, the bank may release the funds without seeing a Grant of Probate.

Each bank has their own rules on whether or not Probate is required, so it’s difficult to say exactly what amounts to a ‘small Estate’. Generally if the entire Estate is worth less than £15,000 there’s a good chance the bank will release the funds without a Grant of Probate. However, it’s assessed on a case by case basis, so you’ll need to check with the specific financial institution. For more detailed information see Probate for Small Estates.

Probate When There is a Will

We often hear from people who think that Probate isn’t needed because their loved one left a Will, but this isn’t true. Probate is triggered by an asset in the Estate, so it comes down to what your loved one owned, rather than whether or not there is a Will. Typically, if someone owned a property which isn’t passing to a surviving spouse, Probate will be needed.

To Confirm If Probate is Needed or Not

If you’re not sure whether or not Probate is needed, our Probate Advisors can tell you – free of charge. We’ll discuss your situation with you, advising whether or not Probate is required.

If Probate is needed, our Probate Complete Service takes full responsibility for getting the Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excluding VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs; on your behalf.

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