Bank Limits for Probate
11 March 2020
When someone dies, their bank will need to be notified and their bank accounts will need to be closed. A legal document called a grant of probate is sometimes required to do this.
It's generally considered that for small estates where no property was owned and everything else is worth less than £15,000, probate won't be needed. But this isn't true in every situation. Banks will usually release money up to a certain threshold (limit) without requiring a grant of probate, but each financial institution has their own limit that determines whether or not probate is needed.
You'll need to add up the total amount held in the deceased's accounts for each bank. If the total held by each bank or building society falls below their threshold, then you usually won't need a grant of probate for the money to be released. If it falls above the threshold, then you probably will need to apply for probate.
Each financial institution also has different rules on whether the threshold is confined to the amount held in the account though, or if this relates to the overall value of the estate (meaning everything the deceased person owned). So some banks and financial institutions might say that probate is required if there is £30,000 being held in an account, whereas others might say that probate is needed if the entire estate is worth £30,000.
The term probate refers to a legal document which gives the executor or administrator authority to deal with the deceased person's assets. This document is called a grant of probate if there is a will or a grant of letters of administration if there isn't.
This document is important because, as you can imagine, banks can't allow just anyone to withdraw money from a deceased person's account. But if you've got a grant of probate, it confirms that you have the legal authority to do so.
Ultimately, it is at the discretion of the bank or building society to decide whether probate is needed. These institutions have authority to request a grant of probate before releasing funds, even if the value falls below their stated threshold.
The threshold for probate can range from £5,000 to £50,000, depending on which banks and financial institutions are holding the deceased person's assets. The probate threshold for each bank and building society is different, so we've put together a list of probate limits for the main banks and building societies in England and Wales.
Please note that this list should be used as a guideline only and not relied upon as fact. We believe these thresholds to be correct at the time of publishing, but these are subject to change.
Banks and building societies
- Aviva - £50,000
- AXA - £10,000
- Bank of Ireland - £10,000
- Bank of Scotland - £25,000
- Barclays - £50,000
- Birmingham Midshires - £25,000
- Britannia - £30,000
- Cheltenham & Gloucester - £25,000
- Co-op Bank - £30,000
- First Direct - £20,000
- Halifax - £50,000
- HSBC - Decided on a case-by-case basis
- Lloyds TSB - £50,000
- M&S Money - £15,000
- Under £5,000 - no grant of probate is required
- £5,000 - £30,000 - a certified copy of the grant of probate is required, or alternatively the 'close account' form will need to be witnessed by a solicitor
- Over £30,000 - the original grant of probate is required
Natwest - £25,000
- NS&I (National Savings / Premium Bonds) - £5,000 to £15,000 depending on the will and the number of executors
- Post Office - £10,000
- Royal Bank of Scotland - £25,000
- Sainsbury's Bank - £20,000
- Santander - £50,000
- Skipton Building Society £15,000
- Tesco Bank - £25,000
- Woolwich - £15,000
- Yorkshire Building Society - £30,000
It’s worth noting that even if your loved one’s estate is below the probate threshold, a financial institution can still request that a grant of probate is obtained. This is common where there is a complex family situation or a large estate.
Having said that, if a deceased person’s estate is worth less £5,000, it would be unusual for probate to be needed.
If probate is needed
If you do need to apply for a grant of probate to deal with the deceased's estate, it's important that you understand what this legal process entails along with the associated risks and responsibilities.
The person who carries out the administration of an estate is called the personal representative (also known as an executor if there is a will or an administrator if there is no will). The role of personal representative carries a lot of responsibility. This person is responsible for all of the legal, tax and administrative work involved in winding up a deceased person's affairs. The work can be complicated and time consuming, with many estates taking up to a year to administer.
Some of the duties include:
- Locating all assets (including shares, digital assets and foreign assets)
- Valuing the estate
- Identifying all debts and settling these
- Calculating inheritance tax, capital gains tax and income tax
- Dealing with HM Revenue & Customs
- Locating and contacting all beneficiaries
- Selling or transferring property and other assets
- Distributing the estate in line with the will (if there is one) and inheritance laws.
If any mistakes are made along the way, the personal representative can be held personally liable for these. For example, if the amount of inheritance tax due is calculated incorrectly then the estate may overpay by a significant margin. Alternatively, if inheritance tax is under-calculated then the personal representative will be financially liable to make up the shortfall.
If you're not comfortable with any part of the probate process then it's a good idea to instruct a probate solicitor to take on this responsibility for you. With our probate complete service, we take full responsibility for the estate administration, completing all of the tax, legal and administrative work on your behalf. We would also be fully liable for the work carried out, so you wouldn't have to worry about shouldering this burden yourself.
Please note that the bank limits shown above are subject to change.