Probate, i.e. the legal process when someone dies to give another person the authority to collect assets and distribute the funds from an estate, is not always necessary. So, how do you know when it is required?

Probate is usually needed if the value of the estate of the person who has died is worth more than £10,000. However, if most of the estate’s assets were jointly owned, it may not be necessary.

Depending on whether the person who has died has left a will or not, you will either need a grant of probate (in the case where there is a will) or a grant of letters of administration (where there isn’t one).

Check if you need probate

Every bank and financial institution have different rules on how much money they can release before they ask to see a grant of probate, so the probate threshold can vary from between £5,000 and £50,000.

For example, major banks such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclay’s, Halifax, Lloyds TSB and Nationwide have a threshold of £50,000, while the Bank of Ireland wishes to see a grant of probate for accounts with £10,000, M&S Money £15,000, the Co-op £30,000 and NS&I £5,000 to £15,000.

What proportion of deaths in the UK require probate?

Some 50 percent of deaths in the UK qualify for probate. There are steps you can take to find out if an estate meets the criteria.

Firstly, you need to work out the value of the estate. If it is less than £10,000, you probably won’t need to apply, because banks are more willing to release smaller funds and assets. As the paragraph above shows, the amount differs per bank, so it is worth checking with the individual institutions.

Secondly, ask yourself if the assets are jointly owned. If property, bank accounts and savings are jointly owned, they automatically pass on to the surviving owner. To release the assets, all you will need is the death certificate.

If a property was owned as tenant in common or there are other solely owned assets within an estate, such as bank accounts, shares, pensions, insurance policies, etc, then probate might be needed.

If there is a will do I need probate?

If an estate is worth more than £10,000 and there are solely-owned assets, the answer is probably yes, even if there is a will.

If you do need probate, it is wise to apply as soon as possible, especially given the current delays in the issuing of grants of probate.



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