What is probate (UK)? All your questions answered

When someone dies, there are various legal procedures to complete, to deal with the property and possessions of the deceased person. In the UK, this is known as probate. Read on to discover more about probate in the UK, with answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject.

What is probate in the UK?

In the UK, probate is the legal and financial process of dealing with a person’s financial assets after they die. This includes property, possessions and any money, including savings.

The probate process validates the person’s will, and confirms who has the authority to administer the estate of the deceased person. Family members and next of kin usually require a grant of probate before they can take, claim or sell any of the assets of the person who passed away, including selling property.

Who needs probate in the UK?

Probate is usually required in the UK for all deaths, when the person who dies owned significant assets in their name only. If the person’s assets were worth less than £5,000, or they were co-owned with a spouse or other family member, you may not require probate. You can usually tell if probate is required if the person’s bank, or another financial institution, has asked for a grant of probate or a grant of representation.

Is probate mandatory in the UK?

Probate is mandatory in the UK if the deceased person’s assets are worth more than £5,000. It’s also required if these assets are registered in their name only. Banks and financial institutions usually release funds of less than £5,000 without a grant of probate. Some banks may release assets worth more than this, though this depends on the policy of each institution.

Do I need probate if I have power of attorney?

You’ll usually need probate regardless of whether you have Lasting Powers of Attorney. Power of attorney only applies while a person is alive. As probate is only required after someone passes away, power of attorney has no effect.

What is the value of an estate to go to probate?

Any estate or assets worth more than £5,000 usually go to probate. Some financial institutions release more without probate, though this differs by institution. As of March 2023, £50,000 is the maximum any financial institution will release without requiring probate.

What assets don’t count towards probate?

The only assets that don’t count towards probate are those that automatically pass to another person after someone dies. This typically includes property or other assets that are owned jointly. If the overall value of the estate is less than £5,000, none of the deceased’s assets are eligible for probate.

How much are solicitors’ probate fees?

If you require probate in the UK, there is a fee attached to applying for it. This is £215 if you apply for probate yourself, or £155 if you apply through a solicitor.

The Law Society provides guidance on solicitor’s fees for probate. As of March 2023, the fees are 0.75% of the value of property, plus 1.5% of any other assets. Most solicitors follow these guidelines when setting their fees.

Do you need probate if you have a will?

The presence of a legal will has no impact on whether an estate goes to probate after someone dies. The only factors that decide whether an estate goes to probate are the value of the assets, and whether they’re held in the sole name of the deceased person.

Can I empty a house before probate?

You may be able to move items out of a house before probate. However, you won’t be able to dispose of them until after the process is complete. This is because solicitors may need to value those items as part of the probate process.

Can I sell a house before probate?

Although you can’t complete the sale of a house before probate, you can put it on the market and accept offers. You’ll require probate, though, before you exchange contracts and complete the sale.

Can you do anything to avoid probate?

There are ways to avoid the process of probate in the UK, though these need to be arranged before the person passes away. Holding property in joint names is one of the main ways to avoid probate. You can also create a living trust. This places your assets and property ‘in trust’ when you die, with a trustee managing them for your beneficiaries.

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