Probate - frequently asked questions

What is probate of a Will?

Probate is the process of sorting out the assets of a person who has died in England and Wales.

These assets usually take the form of property, finances and possessions. In addition to the financial transactions that take place during this process (e.g. transferring money to a benefactor), there are also some legal duties that must be fulfilled.

The equivalent process in Scotland is called ‘confirmation’, which follows a different route. For more information, check out this guide from the Scottish Courts

How long does probate take?

The entire probate process takes, on average, roughly six to nine months from start to finish. If there are no added complications, probate should be granted between four to eight weeks after submitting the application.

From here, it can be hard to say precisely how long it will be until the assets are divided among the Will’s benefactors because every property, asset and financial situation is different.

Probate can be completed in less than a month if everything is straightforward, but in cases where there are many issues or the Will is contested, it can take several years to resolve.

When is probate required?

Probate is required whenever the person who died owned a property or a Grant of Representation (a form needed to confirm that someone has died) is required by their bank.

Some banks set their own monetary limit, above which probate is necessary, so we recommend checking with the relevant bank directly.

How do I apply for probate?

Applications for probate can be made by post or online. Before applying, it’s important to note that you can only apply for probate if:

  • You have the deceased’s original Will
  • You have a death certificate from the coroner
  • You have reported the value of the deceased’s estate (i.e. finances, properties and assets) to HMRC
  • The deceased was a permanent resident of England or Wales, or they were making plans to return
How do I get a death certificate?

Before you can get a death certificate, you’ll need to register the death at a registry office. Typically, this should be done within five days. Once this is done, you’ll be given a death certificate.

The only circumstance where you won’t be given a death certificate straight away is if a doctor reports the death to the coroner. This is often the case if the cause of death is unknown or was very sudden, but there are a whole range of reasons, which can be seen in more detail here.

How do I estimate the value of an estate?

To work out the value of the estate, you’ll need to consider:

  • Value of any assets
  • Value of gifts given
  • Outstanding debts

For more information, read our guide on estimating the value of an estate.

How much does probate cost?

A solicitor covering a basic estate with few assets and no inheritance tax to pay will cost around £3,000, although regional differences can occur. More complex estates typically cost much more, and if the deceased has inheritance tax to pay and several accounts, a solicitor can cost up to £6,000.

Alternatively, executors can carry out the process themselves by using a guide from Which?, but this option is only available to people in England and Wales. People who choose this option will receive guidance from a trained probate specialist over the course of six months, and in total this option costs £299.