A Question of Probate
What is a Grant of Probate and do i need one?
The proposed reforms to probate fees have thankfully now been abandoned. So what is the current position? When exactly do you need a Grant of Probate? What assets qualify? And what is the cost?
What is a Grant and how much does it Cost?
Fundamentally, a Grant of Probate authorises the executors appointed under a deceased person’s Will* to administer that person’s affairs (their “estate”). It is therefore often required to access, transfer or sell assets in the estate.
How do you Obtain a Grant?
To obtain one, an application must be made to the Probate Registry, which currently charges a flat-rate fee of £155 for a solicitor’s application or £215 for a personal application. The executor will need to sign a statement of truth – essentially a series of promises to the court to follow the law when administering the estate – and will need to clear off the inheritance tax position prior to the Grant application.
What Assets need a Grant?
Not all assets in an estate require a Grant of Probate. Some assets never need a Grant, whilst for others it depends on how they are owned and/or how valuable they are. As a guide, some common types of assets and how they are typically treated are listed below:
|Does Asset need a Grant to administer it?|
|Property in sole name||Bank accounts in sole name||Bank accounts in joint names|
|Investments in sole name||Investments in joint names|
|Shares in sole name||Shares in joint names|
|Foreign assets||Personal possessions|
|Property in joint names|
For the assets in the “maybe” column, the need for a Grant often depends on the value of the asset. Unfortunately, there is no way to know whether a Grant is required for these assets without approaching the relevant institution following a death and asking them to confirm the requirements. For shares, a small estates declaration may be possible (typically for shares worth up to £5,000), which would avoid the need for obtaining a Grant. For bank accounts, each bank has a different maximum balance that they will release without requiring a Grant. Thresholds vary between £10,000 and £30,000, depending on the particular bank.
In some circumstances, it is possible to structure your affairs to minimise the chance of needing a Grant of Probate. Such estate planning must always be considered alongside other relevant legal and practical factors, such as Inheritance Tax. Equally, there are many complexities in administering estates whether or not a Grant of Probate is required.
If you would like assistance with any of these topics, please contact our Wills, Trusts and Estates team who will be able to assist on 0118 951 6200.
* NB. If a person dies without a Will (“intestate”), the administrators of their estate would apply for a “Grant of Letters of Administration” instead. The requirements for applying for such a Grant and the corresponding fees are the same as for a Grant of Probate.