How does probate work?

It’s not every day you think about probate and therefore it’s not always understood. We explain what probate is, the time limits for a probate application and provide some other handy information from the questions we get asked on a regular basis.

What is probate?

Probate refers to the official proving of a will’s validity after someone has died. Once probate is granted it enables the process of sorting possessions, properties, and money according to the law and instructions in the will, this is known as administering the estate.

Is there a time limit on applying for probate?

Though there is no time limit on the probate application itself, there are aspects of the process which do have time scales. Inheritance tax for example, is a very important part of attaining probate in the first place and must be done within 6 months of the date of death. The payment of inheritance tax is vital and must be completed before probate courts can issue a grant of probate.

How long does probate take?

Probate will on average take between 4 and 8 months. You may find probate takes half the time in a case where there is no inheritance tax payable. Factors which may impact timescales are; the size of estate, the kind of assets included, when multiple parties are involved, if a property is involved and if a will is not in place.

When is probate necessary?

Probate is not always a necessary part of the process. It can depend on factors such as value of the estate and if there are co-owners to properties. You can do a quick check to see if you require probate through the Co-op legal service website.

How do I get probate without a will?

If there is no will in place it is more difficult to understand who should look after the will and who will receive the assets. The person who deals with an estate where there is no will is called an ‘administrator’ and is usually the deceased person’s next of kin but can be passed to a solicitor. Check the Government website for more information.

In terms of the estate, there are laws in place which help decide who the inheritance will go to.

How to apply for probate?

If there is a solicitor already helping you with the will, they can apply for probate for you, but you are equally able to apply yourselves. Gov.UK provide the probate application form on their website, along with step by step process and helplines in case you get stuck.

Insurance for an unoccupied property

It’s important that while you’re probate application goes through, assets such as property are properly insured. An unoccupied property often requires different insurance. There are different risks associated to it and therefore if the property already has cover in place it’s still worth making sure the insurance provider will still cover it. What to look for if it doesn’t is a specialist property provider who can help with the insurance for empty properties. Often, you will find these policies can be short-term so you can choose the number of months that best fits your circumstance.