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What is a Grant of Probate?

What is a Grant of Probate?


Expert view

A Grant of Probate, which is sometimes referred to as just probate, is a legal document that is needed to deal with the possessions of someone who has died in England or Wales. The process is slightly different depending on whether the person who died had a will or not.

Once you’ve identified that a Grant of Probate is needed, the person who was appointed as the executor in the will has to make an application to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Probate.

After the application is approved by the Probate Registry, the Grant of Probate will be issued. This will confirm that the person has died, that their will is valid and authentic and that the executors appointed in the will are the only people with the authority to administer the estate.

If someone dies without a valid will and probate is required to administer their estate, it is usually family members who will make an application to the probate registry. Instead of a Grant of Probate, you would apply for Letters of Administration.

You may not always need to obtain a Grant of Probate to deal with an estate. It really depends on what kind of assets they have. If they had property or bank accounts in their sole name, or stocks, shares or investments, getting a Grant of Probate is necessary. We’ll look at each of these in turn.

Property in sole name - The Land Registry needs to see the Grant of Probate when dealing with any property held in the sole name of someone who’s died. The executors of the estate will need to apply for the Grant of Probate to show the Land Registry if they want to sell the property or transfer the property into a beneficiary’s name.

If the person who died owned the property jointly with someone else, you may not need probate at all, but this depends on how the property was owned.

If the property was owned as joint tenants, something called the right of survivorship comes into effect. This simply means that the share of the property belonging to the person who died will automatically pass to the surviving owner. But, if the property was owned as tenants in common, right of survivorship will not take effect and a Grant of Probate will need to be obtained to deal with the share of the property belonging to the person who died.

Bank accounts in sole name – Banks or building societies may ask to see the Grant of Probate before they close any bank accounts and transfer the closing funds. This is particularly common if there is a large amount of money in the account. Each bank and building society has their own discretionary limits so it’s worth discussing this with them first. These rules are in place to make sure that the bank does not deal with anyone who is not entitled to administer the estate of the person who has died and that they don’t release funds to the wrong people.

If the person who died had joint accounts, these tend to be transferred into the name of the surviving owner once the bank has seen the death certificate.

Stocks, shares and investments

If the person who died had stocks and shares you will usually have to show the share registrar the Grant of Probate regardless of the value of the shares. Again, this makes sure that the share registrar is dealing with the executors who are administering the estate and that they transfer the sale proceeds to the correct people.

It’s normally the same when dealing with investments. The Grant of Probate authorises the executors to administer the estate and assets. Therefore all institutions where investments are held will need to see the Grant of Probate before they wind up the assets and distribute the closing funds.

These are just a few of the examples when you might need to get a grant of probate to deal with someone’s estate.

We can help you if you’re not sure if you need a grant of probate or not. Call our friendly and professional team now on 0117 926 4121 to see how we can help or if you’d prefer, make a Free Online Enquiry.