In England and Wales, the correct name for the Probate Court is the Probate Registry. The Principal Probate Registry is in London, there are 11 District Probate Registries and finally a further 18 Probate Sub-Registries at local level. The Probate Registries are part of the Government’s Probate Service which deals with the affairs of a deceased person and administers the will if there is one. You will be able to visit your nearest local Probate Registry to sort out the necessary administration after someone dies.
A properly constituted will should name an executor who has the responsibility of organising the necessary actions to meet the terms of the will. In order to have the legal authority to do so, the executor needs to obtain a document from a Probate Registry that is called a Grant of Representation, sometimes known as a grant or simply as probate.
The Grant of Representation authorises the executor to deal with organisations like banks, building societies and utility companies to sort out the affairs of the deceased. You can apply for a grant of Representation yourself or you can get a solicitor to do it for you.
To get the Grant of Representation you need to fill in a probate application form (PA1) which you can download from the official Gov.uk website or obtain by contacting your local Probate Registry. You can also ask a solicitor to handle this for you. If you decide to do it yourself and you need assistance, you can call the Government’s Probate and Inheritance Tax helpline on 0300 123 1072.
For estates with a net worth of less than £5,000 there is no fee, but estates worth more than that will incur a fee of £215. The net worth is calculated by subtracting funeral costs and debts from the total value of the estate.
Once the probate application form has been submitted you will need to visit your local office for an interview to personally affirm that the information on your application is true to the best of your knowledge. If a solicitor is handling your application, in most cases it will be possible for you to sign a document swearing that the information is correct which the solicitor will then forward to the Probate Registry.
In some cases, you will not need probate, although if there is property in the estate you usually will. The exception to this is where a property is jointly owned by two people; in that case sole ownership will transfer to the surviving partner.
Estates where the assets are simply cash in the bank with sums of less than £5,000 and personal possessions of limited value, the bank may be prepared to allow the transfer of monies with the production of a death certificate. If you are unsure whether you need probate, contact the Government’s Probate and Inheritance Tax helpline on 0300 123 1072.