A guide to probate: everything you need to know

How to deal with a will and estate

1. Find the will

Once somebody’s death has been registered and their funeral arranged, the first thing to do is locate the person’s will (or confirm they did not make one).

If you cannot find one in their home, contact the person’s solicitor, accountant or bank to see if any of them holds it. You can check whether a will is stored with the Principal Registry of the Family Division. Ask for a search to be made of the safe custody wills register.

2. Contact banks and other financial providers

The executors named in the will, or the people who will inherit if there is no will (called intestacy), should start assembling the financial information.

You should notify banks, building societies, mortgage lenders, credit card providers and insurance companies. Your first step should be the deathnotificationservice.co.uk, which allows you to notify several banks and building societies of a person’s death at the same time.

Then go to the Tell Us Once service, which lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. You will be able to notify HMRC, DWP, DVLA, the Passport Office and so on in a few clicks.

3. Estimate and report the estate’s value

The executor needs to assess the amount in savings accounts, pensions, shares and Isas, and whether the dead person’s employer owed them wages. Debts such as credit cards must be paid off. If the mortgage lender requires interest payments to continue while you are applying for probate, the executor can pay these bills and reclaim the money from the estate once they have obtained probate. The executor should check if there are any payouts from life insurance policies.

4. Begin the formal probate process

The executor should apply for a grant of probate, which is the legal document that enables you to access funds, sort finances and share out assets the deceased accumulated.

The government website gov.uk/applying-for-probate sets out the process and whether you actually have to go through it. According to Step, in England and Wales, there is usually no need to apply for probate if the estate is worth less than £5,000. There is an application fee of £155 for estates over the £5,000 threshold, with a £60 fee added if you apply yourself rather than via a solicitor.

Assuming you have obtained an estimate of the estate’s value, and you have the original will and death certificate, you can begin the probate process online.

5. Decide whether to use a solicitor, probate brokerage or do it yourself


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