Probate is when the person dealing with the deceased’s estate, as executor or administrator, applies for special legal authority to proceed. Sometimes, in England, this is called a ‘grant of representation’. In Northern Ireland it’s called a ‘grant of probate’, and in Scotland ‘confirmation’.

When someone dies, everything they own becomes known as their estate. Their estate may consist of:

  • The property they lived in (their home)
  • Other properties they may own
  • Money in their bank and cash stored out of the bank
  • Shares
  • Personal items such as jewellery, car and other items
  • Any life insurance policies – and other policies

In some cases when someone dies they have a few debts to pay, for example funeral expenses, credit cards, store cards, mortgage payments etcetera; these debts can be paid out of the estate.

Usually everything will pass to a surviving relative and in some cases friends. This can be done either in accordance with the deceased’s will or under the Intestacy Rules (when someone dies without a will).


The administrator will be responsible for the estate under certain circumstances, for example if there is no will or named executor. Whereas the executor is someone who is named in the will and therefore responsible for dealing with it.

It is usually against the law to begin distributing the estate, or even getting money out of the estate until you have obtained probate or some form of administration letters.

At Britton and Time Solicitors we offer legal advice on:

  • The Will – and what it means
  •  Any codicil – this is a document that the deceased wrote to make additions or changes to the original will
  • How to pass the estate to children that are under the age of 18
  • If there is any money or property left in trust
  • If there is property or land owned in a foreign jurisdiction (i.e. France, Germany, Australia etcetera)
  • If the person who died owned a business or shares in the business
  • If there are any disputes regarding the will

It is important to remember that the legal fees can be paid out of the estate and will ensure that things are done properly and fairly. The full administration service, for a typical estate is approximately £3,950 plus VAT.

Inheritance tax

Anybody administrating the estate will have to do inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about the death, this will usually mean that inheritance tax is payable.

The inheritance tax only becomes due if the estate is valued at more than £325,000. In some cases there are exceptions to the rule like if the husband, wife or civil partner inherits the estate. If inheritance tax needs to be paid, then some of the tax is usually paid before probate or letters of administration are granted. The final tax bill will be sorted at a later date and more information can be found by clicking here.

The value of a deceased estate:

In order to apply for probate you will need to firstly value the estate. When we file probate forms on behalf of our clients, we put how much the estate is worth. In order to achieve this we must:

  1. Value any assets
  2. Value any gifts – made in the seven years before death
  3. Value any interest in join property and bank accounts
  4. Value any debts
  5. Calculate how much the estate is worth once the debts are all paid

Join property can become complicated and advice should always be sought.

If you live in England and Wales

The application fee is £215 (correct at 25 April 2019). There is no fee to pay when the estate is worth less than £5,000.

You will need to complete:

  • The Probate Application Form PA1
  • Inheritance Tax Form IHT400 when the estate is more than £325,000
  • Inheritance Tax Form IHT205 when the estate is less than £325,000
If you do not wish to act as executor:

Sometimes an executor named in a will does not wish to act, or they are unable to act on behalf of the estate. Britton and Time Solicitors can be appointed in their place by filling out the details in the government form PA1.

If you would like to discuss any of the above, or you are having difficulties with a will, Probate or an estate in general, then call us on 01273 726951 and ask to speak to Gina. Alternativey, click the contact us section on our website.