Is Probate Always Necessary in the UK?

probate service

If you have been named the Executor of an estate, you may wonder if probate is needed when the person passes away. There are different factors used to determine the answer to this question.

Knowing whether or not you have to apply for probate is essential. If you don’t apply for probate, and you should have, beneficiaries may not be able to access assets left to them in a will.

Understanding what probate is and determining if you need to apply for it or not may seem overwhelming. Let’s take a closer look at what probate is and how to know if it is necessary in your particular case. 

What is Probate?

Probate is the process of administering the estate of a person who has passed away. The executors or administrators of an estate can do nothing with the property in the estate until it has gone through probate.

When You Should Apply for Probate

Before the Executor can do anything with the deceased’s assets, they have to apply for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration if there are deceased left assets in sole name. You may need to apply for a grant of probate if the deceased left a will, and the Grant of Letters of Administration may be necessary if there is no will. 

If There Was a Will

You will typically need a Grant of Probate if the person who passed away leaves any of the following:

  • An account with a balance of around £20,000 and above.  Typically, the bank or Asset provider will set its own rules.
  • Shares or stocks
  • Certain types of insurance policies that have not been written into trust
  • Land or property in their sole name or as ‘tenants in common’

If any of the above is true of the estate, most institutions will require the Grant of Probate before transferring the assets.

To apply for the Grant, the executor must have the original will along with any codicils. A codicil is an addition to the Will.  

If There Was Not a Will

If there was no will, you can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration if you eligible under the intestacy rules. The priority list is as follows: spouse or civil partner, children (excluding step-children), grandchildren (if children have already passed away), parents, siblings (if their siblings have died, their children), grandparents, and finally uncles, aunts, or cousins.

Up to four people with equal entitlement can apply on the same application if they wish to do so.

When Probate May Not Be Necessary

Many times estates do not need to go through the probate process. Some of the instances where an estate can avoid probate are as follows:

  •  If the estate only consists of property that is joint ownership or if there are assets that pass to a spouse or a civil partner when one of them dies
  • If it is a small estate and the deceased had no property, land, or shares in their name. There is no clear cut definition of a small estate. It can range anywhere between a value of £5000 to £50000.
  • If the person was insolvent, meaning that they had more debt and expenses than they had funds to pay them.
  • An insurance policy in the form of a trust. In this case, the trustees will need to provide a copy of the insurance policy and the death certificate.

And while these situations can help you avoid probate, there is the possibility of contentious probate. Contentious probate happens when a person disputes a will or how the deceased’s estate was handled. If this happens, even if the estate wouldn’t have to go through probate, there is a process that it will have to go through before the estate can be settled.

Let the Experts at Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors Help You Navigate Probate

If you are left to finalise the affairs of a loved one after they have died, you are already going through a very difficult time. The probate process can be complicated, and adding complications to this challenging time is unnecessary.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors are here to help you work through all of the procedures required in probate. We will work to finalise the estate of your loved one as efficiently and effectively as possible. We understand that each family we work with deals with different circumstances, so we provide personalised service for each customer.

To discuss your specific situation, contact us today for a consultation.