How to apply for a grant of probate

If someone you know has died and you have been asked to deal with their affairs, you need to be able to prove that you have the legal right to do this.  Otherwise, you will run into difficulties when trying to access their bank accounts or sell their property and belongings.  The most common way to prove your legal right to act is to apply for a grant of probate, as Cathal Murray of James McNulty & Co. Solicitors explains.

What is a grant of probate?

Obtaining a grant of probate is the legal process you need to go through to be recognised as having the legal right to deal with someone’s affairs after they have died. Depending on the circumstances, a grant of probate is sometimes referred to as a grant of representation or a grant of letters of administration (depending on with or without a will).

To prove probate has been granted, you will receive a legal document which confirms your authority to collect in and distribute the money, property and possessions of the deceased person, collectively known as their ‘estate’.

Do I need a grant of probate?

You may not need a grant of probate if:

  • everything the deceased person owned was in joint names, for example with their spouse and therefore passed to the surviving joint owner;
  • the deceased person did not own any property, land or shares; or
  • if the value of their estate is worth less than £15,000.

However, advice should always be sought to determine if probate is necessary in any given case. This is particularly important as some banks and building societies require a grant of probate for estates worth more than £5,000, and others insist on it irrespective of value.

Can anyone apply?

Anyone named in the deceased’s Will as an executor can apply for a grant of probate. Where no Will exists, a family member can make the application instead.

Sometimes, disputes arise when more than one person is entitled to apply. This is particularly common were there is no will and family members are concerned that they may not be dealt with fairly. In this situation it is possible, if you are aged 18 or over, to register a restriction (called a ‘caveat’) to stop probate being issued until the dispute has been resolved. To do this you need to submit an application for a caveat to the Probate Registry and pay a fee; once in place, the caveat will last for six months.

What is the process?

To obtain a grant of probate you will need to:

  • complete a probate application form;
  • complete an inheritance tax form and possibly pay a proportion of any tax due;
  • provide a copy of the death certificate and the original Will (if one exists);
  • pay a fee if the estate is worth £5,000 or more;
  • submit your application to the High Court Probate Registry; and
  • swear an oath confirming the accuracy of the information given.

Providing your application is successful, you can expect to receive the grant of probate within 28 working days of the oath being sworn.

What happens once a grant has been made?

Once the grant of probate has been issued, you can use it to gain access to the deceased person’s bank accounts and to collect in, sell and distribute their assets. However, before paying any money out, you need to ensure any debts owed are settled, including the payment of any outstanding inheritance tax.

This is an example of applying for a grant of probate that has no complications. If you require advice on probate when they are more assets that have to be valued or sold including investments such as shares or land, or any other issue relating to wills, trusts or estate administration, please contact Cathal Murray on 028 8224 2177 or email