Why Do I need Probate if the Deceased Left a Will?
25 February 2019
Whether or not Probate is needed to wind up someone's affairs after they die depends on the size of their Estate and how their assets are owned. This applies regardless of whether or not the deceased left a Will. If the deceased did leave a Will, then this will determine who can deal with their Estate and how their Estate will be distributed but it won't avoid the need for Probate.
So When Is Probate Needed?
When people speak about Probate, what they are referring to is a legal document that grants a named person with authority to wind up a deceased person's financial and personal affairs. This document, issued by the Probate Registry, is called the Grant of Probate if the deceased left a Will or the Letters of Administration if they didn't.
To work out whether or not Probate is needed on an Estate, you will first need to establish what assets the person owned on the date of their death, the total value of these assets and the way in which they were owned.
If the deceased owned a property in their sole name then Probate will always be required to sell or transfer this property.
If a property is held as tenants in common, where each person owns a specified share of the property, the deceased's share will form part of their Estate when they die. This share will then be passed on in line with the terms of their Will or in line with the Rules of Intestacy. Probate will confirm who is entitled to receive the sale proceeds from the deceased's share.
If the deceased owned a property jointly with someone else as joint tenants then the property will automatically pass into the ownership of the surviving joint owner, meaning that Probate isn't needed.
If there are bank accounts in the sole name of the deceased which contain a significant amount of money, then Probate may be required to close down these accounts. You will need to check this with the bank in question though, because each bank sets their own threshold for Probate.
We have made a list of the Probate thresholds of all the major high street banks. If the amount that the deceased held with them falls below their threshold then they may agree to release the money and close the account without requiring a Grant of Probate.
An Estate with no property and a relatively small amount of money in the bank is known as a small Estate and Probate often isn't needed on small Estates for this reason.
Any joint bank accounts that the deceased held with another person will automatically transfer into the sole name of the surviving account holder.
Shares and Other Assets
If the deceased owned shares worth over £10,000 then Probate will most likely be needed in order to sell or transfer these shares. See our article for more information on Selling Shares during Probate.
In addition, if the deceased had a life insurance policy or a pension scheme that will pay a lump sum into their Estate on their death, then Probate may be required for this.
If Probate Is Needed
If you find that Probate is needed to deal with a deceased person's Estate, it's important to know that you don't have to take it on alone. Probate is a complex legal process during which you're likely to have to undertake 70-100 hours of legal, tax and administrative work over the course of 9-12 months (or even longer for a more complex Estate).
This can be a lot to take on during a time of grief, but by instructing a Probate Specialist such as Co-op Legal Services to help you, it's possible to ease the burden. With our Probate Complete Service, we can take full responsibility for all of the legal, tax and administrative work on your behalf.