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What Happens if You Don’t Apply for Probate?

11th March 2020

If you do not obtain Probate when someone dies but Probate is needed on their Estate, their Beneficiaries will not be able to receive their inheritance. Instead the deceased person's assets will be frozen and held in a state of limbo, as no one will have the legal authority to access, sell or transfer these assets.

For free initial advice and guidance call our Probate Advisors on 03306069584 or contact us online and we will help you.

Do I Need Probate?

When someone dies, you’ll need to find out if Probate is needed to deal with their Estate. Probate isn't required every time someone dies. It depends on the value of their assets and the way in which their assets were held.

In England and Wales, Probate is not usually needed for small Estates containing no property and only a small amount of money. If the Estate contains any property or land then this would not be considered a small Estate. An Estate will certainly be considered small if the total value is less than £5,000, but often the threshold is higher than this. Each bank and financial institution has their own limit, so you'll need to check with each of the organisations holding the money. If any assets are held in the deceased's sole name and that asset is valued above the Probate threshold, Probate will be needed.

For more information on the bank's thresholds, see Bank Limits for Probate.

If someone dies who owned a property with someone else as joint tenants, then the surviving person would automatically inherit the property under what's called the Right of Survivorship. Probate is not needed for this process.

If they owned a property with someone else as tenants in common however, the property would not automatically be transferred to the surviving owner. Instead, their share of the property would form part of their Estate and be inherited by whoever is legally entitled to inherit this. Probate will be needed to deal with this.

Other jointly held assets (such as the contents of joint bank accounts) generally transfer to the surviving person after the other person dies. However, you must be certain that absolutely all of the assets were held in joint names when establishing whether or not Probate is needed.

What Happens if I Don’t Obtain Probate?

If you don't obtain Probate, then generally the deceased's assets cannot be accessed or transferred to any of the Beneficiaries.

Probate gives a named person the legal authority to deal with a deceased person's assets. Unless someone is granted this authority, it won't be possible to wind up the deceased person's affairs. This includes closing down bank accounts, selling or transferring property, transferring pensions, and cashing in other investments.

So what will happen to these assets? Well, they will still exist, but they will be frozen. No one will be able to do anything with them, so they will remain in limbo. This will be particularly unsatisfactory for the beneficiaries, as they won’t be able to receive their inheritance.

Not obtaining Probate when it’s needed can also cause significant problems for family and friends in the future. For example, a widow may believe Probate isn’t needed when her husband dies because everything was held in joint names. However when she dies it becomes apparent that, unbeknownst to her, the house was in her husband’s sole name.

Consequently the people who are responsible for administering her Estate will also have to deal with the Probate on her late husband's Estate. They will need to do this first, before they can then go on to deal with Probate on the wife's Estate. This can result in significant delays, and increases both the stress and the costs involved.

Therefore it’s best to find out for certain if Probate is needed after someone has died. You can find out by speaking to our Probate Advisory team. If Probate is required, it’s a good idea to begin the process without too much delay. If you don’t feel able to do this yourself, you can always ask a specialist Probate Solicitor to act on your behalf.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs*.

At Co-op Legal Services our Probate Solicitors offer fixed fee Probate. Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done, that price will not change, unless the original information we are given is shown to be incorrect or circumstances change.

* We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate owns sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to repay our costs.

As part of the Co-op Group our values of openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others are core to the service we provide.

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