Do I need probate?
March 8, 2023
Before the executor can claim, transfer, sell or distribute anything from the estate when someone dies, they may need to apply for a grant of probate. Whether or not this is required depends on the assets left behind by the deceased.
If the deceased person owned any property with someone else, their share of the property will only be passed automatically to the surviving owner if they were listed as “joint tenants”. In this case, you may not need to obtain probate.
If the property was held as “tenants in common”, the deceased’s share does not automatically pass to the surviving owner. Instead, it can be left to someone else in a will. If there is no will, it will be passed to whoever is entitled under the “intestacy rules”.
In most cases where property is owned as tenants in common or in the deceased’s sole name, probate will be required. A solicitor can check for you how the property was held, or you can check with the Land Registry.
Money, Shares and ISAs
Money held in bank and building society accounts registered solely to the deceased can sometimes be obtained without probate. Some banks and building societies will pay out amounts up to a certain threshold, e.g. Nationwide Building Society’s limit is £50,000. Others will have lower thresholds, and some will insist on a grant of probate before they pay out anything at all.
Estates which include shares are more likely to require probate, although some registrars will deal with shares without probate if their value is under a certain threshold. If you own just a few shares which aren’t worth much, it might be sensible to sell them now in order to avoid your family having to get probate before they can sell them. Getting probate and selling small amounts of shares can cause executors a lot of work and expense costing more than the shares are worth.
As with property, any joint bank accounts do not require probate, regardless of the value, as they will pass automatically to the surviving account holder.
Establishing if you need probate
Quite often, even a small estate will include one or two assets, which cannot be cashed in without a grant. You’re particularly likely to need a grant if the person who died was single, or if their spouse or civil partner died before them.
If you’re the executor of an estate, it’s important to establish early on whether you need a grant, so you can apply as soon as possible. Although there is no deadline for applying for the grant, there are time limits for paying Inheritance Tax and applying for tax reliefs, which you need to meet so the beneficiaries aren’t left out of pocket.
Find more answers to some of our most frequently asked questions in our free probate guide.
If you need help with making or amending a will, or dealing with probate, contact Beth King on 020 8313 1300 or email@example.com.
The information contained in this article is intended for general guidance only. It provides useful information but it is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice as the articles do not take into account specific circumstances. So do please Contact US for legal advice on the issues raised.