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Why Probate is Not Required on a Small Estate

1st November 2017

By Probate Solicitor Kim Hammond

Probate is a process that you may need to go through in order to obtain the legal authority to deal with someone’s property, money and assets after they have died (known as their Estate). Probate is not always required for small Estates in England or Wales. This is because some assets and up to £5,000 cash can usually be legally transferred without going through the Probate process.

A small Estate is difficult to define, but usually if an Estate contains property or has a value of more than £5000, it will not be considered a small Estate.

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

Obtaining Grant of Probate

A Grant of Probate is often required to deal with the assets in a deceased person’s Estate. The Grant of Probate gives legal authority to the Executor (if the deceased left a Will) so that they can close bank accounts, sell shares and investments and sell or transfer property.

If the deceased person died without a Will, one of their relatives would need to go through the Probate process. This person is known as the ‘Administrator’, and they need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration.

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*.

When Do You Need a Grant of Probate?

Applying for and obtaining a Grant of Probate can be a time consuming, complicated and draining process and it isn’t always necessary as there are a number of circumstances in which Probate is not required:

  1. Where an individual had a “small Estate”, so had few assets in their sole name and their Estate value does not exceed £5,000. In these circumstances it would be extremely rare that a Grant of Probate would be required and indeed an application to the Probate Registry to obtain one would be returned.

  2. If a person held all their assets jointly with another person, a Grant of Probate would also not be required to deal with these. This is because where a house or a bank account is held jointly and one of the joint holders dies, the law dictates that these assets pass by “survivorship”, meaning that they automatically belong to the surviving joint owner (or owners). In these circumstances no Grant of Probate is required to transfer assets, sell property or close accounts.

Even when a deceased person had assets in their sole name which may appear quite considerable, there may still be circumstances where a Grant of Probate is not required to deal with these, and an Executor may administer a person’s Estate without having authority from the Probate Registry (also called the Probate Court).

Whether a Grant of Probate is required is often a question of:

  • The value of the Estate as a whole and/or
  • The value of the asset in question.

It may also be a question of where the asset is held because banks and investment providers all have different policies as to the circumstances in which they require a Grant of Probate. 

Some high street banks will release funds of up to £50,000 without a Grant whereas others are slightly more cautious and have a limit of £25,000. When bank account savings below these thresholds are the only assets in the Estate, there is no need to apply for a Grant of Probate.

The sale or transfer of shares often requires a Grant of Probate, but most registrars (the companies who administer shares on behalf of companies) have a “Small Estates Procedure.” This means that if the shares held in the deceased’s name are below a certain level (often as high as £10,000), these can be sold without a Grant of Probate.

Many investment companies also have Small Estates Procedures, though it is more usual for them to consider the value of the Estate as a whole when determining whether a Grant of Probate will be needed.

There are of course situations where a Grant will be required even though the above circumstances apply (though these should be few and far between). As a general rule, it should not be necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate where the assets in an Estate meet the small Estates criteria.

If you are unsure, get in touch with our award winning Probate team who will be happy to help you.

To speak with a Co-op Probate Advisor call 03306069584 or contact us online and we will call you.

* 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.

* There are no upfront costs to pay as our fees are deferred and will be taken from the Estate once it is in funds.

Co-op Legal Services is the largest provider of Probate and Estate administration services in England and Wales, and trusted to deal with over £1.3 billion in Estates annually.

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