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Types of Wills – Which Type of Will Do You Need?

Types of Will

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted many aspects of our lives, none more so than the need for making a will. However, the latest research from Canada Life shows that 59% of UK adults have not written a will – that’s 31 million people whose estate could end up in the hands of someone not of their choosing.

But when it comes to writing your will, it can be hard to know which type of will you need as there are four different types of will in the UK – single, joint (mirror), living and trust wills. So let’s take a closer look at the different types of will, what they should include and which one is right for you.

Do I need a will?

First, let’s answer a common question. In a nutshell, yes, you do need a will if you want to decide who gets what from your estate on your death.  But that’s not the only reason; a will can also be used to ensure that should you not be able to take care of yourself and make your own decisions at some point in life, your affairs and wishes are taken care of during your lifetime.

A last will and testament is one of the most important documents in your estate planning and it is up to you who benefits from your estate, and who manages the distribution of your estate when you die.

Types of Will

Different types of will have different purposes; wills are drawn up to not only cover how your assets are distributed upon your death but can also include your funeral plans, the beneficiaries for any special items or sentimental or personal value – such as family heirlooms – and some wills also cater for your healthcare wishes if you are incapacitated and are unable to make your own decisions. Which will is suitable for your needs depends on your circumstances.

  • Single (simple) will – probably the most well-known, common will that is used by an individual that details their wishes upon their death. It can be used by anyone that is single, divorced or in a relationship where their wishes are different to that of their partner/spouse. This type of will is also used by people that have children from a previous relationship and wish to divide their estate between children/spouses from both relationships. However, in these circumstances, you may find that a trust will is more appropriate.
  • Joint (mirror) wills – this type of will is for couples, whether it is your spouse, your civil partner or the person with whom you have a long-term relationship, that have the same wishes upon their death, hence the term ‘mirror’. Whilst two wills are drawn up by your solicitor (or yourself), the wills are almost identical. There are several things to be aware of if you decide to have a joint will:
    • Upon the death of one spouse, the entire deceased’s estate passes to the surviving spouse.
    • Upon the death of the surviving spouse, the estate is distributed in accordance with the joint wishes specified in the will. This could create a problem should the surviving spouse remarry or commit to another long-term relationship as any step-children will be omitted, or there are children from a previous marriage.
    • There has to be an element of trust between spouses/civil partners as there is no guarantee an estate will be passed on to the people you wish.
    • Because the two documents of the will are drawn up at the same time, either party is entitled to change their will at any time and they legally do not have to advise the other party of the change. Therefore, you may find that a trust will is a better option.
  • Trust wills – there are several different types of trust wills, depending on your needs, and they provide greater flexibility over who benefits from your estate, which can be broken down into property and assets. A trust will can also detail how the estate is managed upon your death if the beneficiaries are below a certain age, and your wishes in terms of your healthcare and welfare[1] .
    • Discretionary trust wills – this type of will puts a proportion of, or the entire estate into a trust that is managed by your appointed trustees upon your death. A discretionary trust will name the beneficiaries of the trust, which may be receiving an income from the trust until the beneficiary reaches a certain age or to look after a beneficiary’s health and welfare, such as a child or adult with a disability. The trustees must manage and administer the trust according to your wishes, although they do have some discretion. In addition, it can protect beneficiaries from paying too much tax and from creditors should a beneficiary be in severe debt.
    • Property trust wills – this type of trust will work in a similar way to a discretionary trust will but holds your property (or properties) in a trust from which a beneficiary can receive an income. For example, a surviving spouse would receive an income from the property trust and also be able to continue to live in the property but on their death, the assets pass to other beneficiaries as stated in the trust will.
    • Flexible Life Interest trust will – again, this is similar to the other types of trust will but provides greater flexibility in providing an income from the assets protected in the trust. Therefore, should you have a spouse that needs ongoing care or there are care home fees to pay, the trustees have greater control on how and when the trust funds are released. Whilst these types of trust do protect from Inheritance Tax, both Capital Gains Tax and Income tax will still apply.
  • Living will – lastly is the Living will which is also known as Advance Decisions because this type of will details any care and medical treatment you may require in the future, should you be in a position where you can’t make those decisions for yourself. This can include life-support, being put on a ventilator or CPR as well as treatment for long-term illnesses, such as Parkinson’s or cancer.

All wills must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) in front of at least two witnesses, who will also sign the document as confirmation they have seen the testator signing the will. 

As well as the above types of will, which are the most common, there are also two other types – holographic wills are handwritten wills and oral wills, which are also called ‘nuncupative’ wills.

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable.  If you are an Executor of a will and need to apply for Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.

What Is the Process to Obtain Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?

Process to Obtain Grant of Probate

When someone dies, whether there is a will or not, the executor of the will or a family member will need to apply to the court for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. This gives them the authority to handle the deceased’s estate including all the necessary financial and property aspects.

However, sometimes probate must be applied for, in some cases it is not needed and in other circumstances, Letters of Administration will be required instead of probate. So, what is the process to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?

When is probate necessary?

First, let’s just clarify when probate is necessary. The general rule is that if the value of the deceased’s estate is more than £5,000, Grant of Probate is required.

If there is a will, it is the appointed executor’s role to apply for probate but if there is no will or executor, the next of kin or a family member representing the deceased will need to apply for Letters of Administration. This grants them the authority to handle the deceased’s estate and they will be called the administrator.

Other circumstances where Letters of Administration are required are:

● One person has been left the entire estate;
● There are no executors named in the will;
● The named executors are not prepared to accept the role.

Only an executor of the estate can apply for a Grant of Probate. If there is no executor, the next of kin or a close relative must apply for Letters of Administration in order to manage the deceased’s estate.

When is probate not necessary?

Let’s quickly explain when you don’t need to apply for a Grant of Probate. As a rule, if the majority of the deceased’s estate is jointly owned with their living spouse or civil partner, such as joint bank accounts or a mortgage, they may not need to apply for Grant of Probate. Other circumstances when probate is not necessary are:

● The estate is valued at less than £10,000 and there are no shares or land as part of the estate. If the estate is particularly small and there is only a token amount in a bank account, the bank has the discretion as to whether they need Grant of Probate to release the funds.
● If any money, i.e. bank accounts, or property are owned jointly with a living spouse or civil partner.

The process to obtain Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration

Once the death has been registered (which must be within five days), applications for Grant of Probate must be submitted to the court within six months. This is not because there is a time limit on applying for probate; it is because there is a time limit on paying HMRC any Inheritance Tax that may be due. In practice, reporting the estate’s value to HMRC and applying for probate is usually done at the same time, as both are needed to finalise the deceased’s estate.

Whether there is a will or not, the process to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is similar. The first step is to itemise the deceased’s estate and calculate its value. This will include any money in their bank or building society accounts, the value of the deceased’s belongings and any property held in the deceased’s name (even if it is in joint names, the value still needs to be ascertained). You will need to consider:

● Bank accounts, pension funds and any other financial assets, such as mortgage on a property, savings and life assurance policies
● Any property, whether in joint names or not, will need to be valued by a local estate agent. It is always worth getting three to four valuations.
● Any outstanding debts, such as utilities, mortgage payments, credit cards, loans or any other monies owed by the deceased
● Any gifts the deceased made that are above the official allowance within the previous seven years (not including Christmas, birthday or anniversary gifts) – they may be subject to Inheritance Tax.

In most cases, you will need a copy of the death certificate and/or will be sent
to the relevant organisations.

Applying for probate can either be done through a solicitor, particularly if a solicitor holds the deceased’s will, a family solicitor, or you can file for probate yourself online. If there is a will, you will need the following to apply for probate:

● An official copy of the death certificate (if applying online, this will be a scanned image);
● The original will;
● The application fee.

One thing to note is that you can only apply for probate online if:

● All the named executors are alive and able to make decisions; and
● The deceased spent most of their life in England and Wales.

The actual process to obtain Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is:

● Register the death to receive the death certificate
● Advise beneficiaries and notify the companies the deceased dealt with, including banks, insurance companies, mortgage providers and utility providers. Ask them to close the deceased’s account, stop any additional charges and send a final statement.
● Submit Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration forms along with HMRC’s inheritance tax forms. All of these forms can be submitted online but you will need to send some original documents, such as the will and death certificate.
● Pay inheritance tax to HMRC, if applicable. In most cases, surviving spouses/civil partners or family members will need to get a loan to cover this cost until the deceased’s estate has released the assets.
● Pay any outstanding debt, such as utility bills, credit card balances, loans or mortgages. If there aren’t sufficient funds to cover these costs, discuss with the creditor to arrange a repayment agreement.
● If there’s life insurance, now’s the time to claim as this may be enough to cover any outstanding debts and funeral costs
● Allocate the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries according to the deceased’s wishes, if they left any, otherwise equally.

If there is no will, the next of kin or a close relative of the deceased will need to apply for Letters of Administration which you can do yourself via post using the form PA1A, which is a probate application form. This can be downloaded from an online probate service or from a probate registry near you.

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable. If you are an Executor of a will and need to apply for Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.

What to Do When Someone Dies: Do You Need a Probate Solicitor?

probate solicitor

When someone dies, it’s a very stressful, emotional time, especially if they were a close relative or family member. However, there are some procedures that must be done immediately, and some things that are legally required.

A question that always arises is, do I need a solicitor to apply for probate? In some circumstances, it is possible to apply for probate yourself but in other cases, where there’s no will or the deceased’s estate is complex, getting help from a solicitor is the best policy.

Steps to take when someone dies

Whether the deceased died at home, in hospital, in a care home or even abroad, the doctor attending will issue you with a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. This is possibly one of the most important documents you will need.

● Register the death – you will need to register the death within 5 days, or 8 days if in Scotland. The 5-day period includes weekends and bank holidays. You will need to register the death at your local Register Office, if they died at home, or the Register Office local to the hospital/care home. Only a close relative can register the death, but if no relatives are available, it can be done by someone who was present when the person died, someone who lives in the house where the person died or someone who is arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director).


● Arrange the funeral – this can only take place after the death has been registered. It can be arranged by a funeral director on your behalf, or you can organise it yourself. In some cases, the deceased may have made their own funeral arrangements before they died.


● Advise relevant government departments – whether they are receiving benefits, allowances or a state pension, or if they are still working, you will need to notify the relevant government departments. This can be done using the Government’s Tell Us Once online service.


● Bereavement benefits – you may be eligible to receive financial support, such as the Bereavement Support payment or Guardian’s Allowance.


● Benefits, pensions and taxes – if your spouse/civil partner has died, you will need to manage theirs and your own benefits, pensions and taxes.

● Hear the will (if there is one) and deal with their estate – you may need to apply for grant of probate or letters of administration. If the deceased left a will, it advises who the beneficiaries are and other details. If there is no will, the estate will need to be valued.

Applying for probate

Whilst it isn’t compulsory in England and Wales, many people use a solicitor to apply for probate. There are quite a few legal procedures that need to be adhered to and having a solicitor handle the matter for you can greatly ease the burden, particularly if the deceased was your spouse/civil partner or close relative.

If probate is required and not applied for, the deceased’s estate cannot be accessed nor transferred to their beneficiaries and sits in limbo. Probate grants legal authority to the person that applies for it to deal with the deceased’s estate. It’s not wise to assume that assets are in joint names; it is better to check all the relevant details.

DIY probate

If you are named an executor in their will, or if there is no will but you are their next of kin, you will be responsible for completing probate for their estate. The probate process can be a lengthy process, time-consuming and if the deceased’s estate is large and/or complex, there is the potential to make mistakes, which will cause further delays and you could be held legally or financially responsible.

In some cases, using a solicitor to apply for probate may not be necessary. For example, if there is no property, land, shares or investments as part of the estate and is worth less than £5,000, and whether the deceased owned the estate outright or in joint names. But in most situations, the deceased’s bank, building society or any other financial firm may insist on probate to close their accounts and release any funds. If you choose to apply for grant of probate yourself, complete the necessary forms, including the value of the estate, working out how much inheritance tax (IHT) is due and making the payment to HMRC, liquidate (sell) any assets and distribute the estate to beneficiaries. You can opt for a DIY Probate Pack, which can be bought online, and includes all the relevant documents to be completed and provide informative guidelines on how to apply for probate. However, be aware that there is no legal support network to offer advice should an issue arise during estate administration.

Probate through a solicitor

If the deceased’s estate’s value is in excess of £5,000, including property, land, investments or shares, or a business that needs to be liquidated, or if there is no will, using a solicitor to apply for probate is the best option. Even if you are a named executor, working with a probate will take much of the burden off your shoulders and ensure you have the right legal advice on tap if you need it.

A probate solicitor will handle applying for grant of probate, or letters of administration if there is no will, as well as deal with all the legal, tax and estate administration processes. If the deceased’s estate is large or complex, i.e. involves multiple properties, extensive investments and trusts, the deceased may well have put the estate administration process into the hands of a solicitor as part of his wishes in their will.

One word of warning; some banks and solicitors have been known to charge relatives around 6% of the total value of the estate. Legally, this is not part of the probate or estate administration procedure. If you are choosing to use a solicitor to help you with the probate process, select one that offers a fixed probate fee upfront.

At Probates Online, we offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable. If you are an Executor of a will or close relative of a deceased person, and you need to apply for a Grant of Probate or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.

Wills, Probate and Estate Management in a Covid-19 World

Wills Probate and Estate Management

The past 18 months have not been easy on many families due to the number of deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In turn, the impact of Covid-19 on probate, as well as the management of wills and estates for individuals and families, has been significant.

When there are as many as 59% of the UK population without a will, the level of people dying ‘intestate’ – without a will – has been extremely high. As of April 2021, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) reported that the average wait for Grant of Probate was now 35 working days; in the last quarter of 2020, it stood at around seven weeks (40 days). However, in reality, these figures don’t reflect the real situation.

Evidence suggests that only if a Grant of Probate application wasn’t ‘stopped’ did it stand a chance of being approved within the seven-week time frame. Reasons for it being stopped, could for example, include: an error on the application, more information being required or a dispute over who is applying for Grant of Probate. In reality, applications that were ‘stopped’, which happened far more than expected, were at around 12 weeks. Ironically, applications for Letters of Administration for estates without a will took less time (around nine weeks) than those for estates with a will (around 14 weeks). One would think that having a will would ensure the application was dealt with in a timely manner.

Initially, following the first lockdown, there were fewer Grant of Probate applications. This was put down to the fact that executors were often unable to get the documents they needed, such as the will, to go with an application. Once measures had been put in place to allow access, there was a sharp increase which was felt by The Probate Registry. To reduce the time it took to register a person’s death, they started to accept electronic signatures and encouraged legal professionals (as well as executors and families) to use their digital service. That said, certain documents still needed to be sent via the post, such as the original will.

How long does probate take?

Before the pandemic, the time to complete the probate process took seven to 12 months, but that was only if the estate was simple and there was a will. If there was no will or disputes, it could take longer. Sadly, the impact of Covid-19 on probate has caused major delays, particularly if the probate process involves the sale of property.

With so many in the property market being affected by the pandemic there is still a significant backlog of probate properties to be sold. Remember, it wasn’t really until the second lockdown of 2020 when estate agents were allowed to work again in an effort to keep the economy stable. The stamp duty holiday didn’t appear to have impacted this backlog as much as was hoped, and since the SDLT holiday has ended, it did little to help the situation.

The impact of Covid-19 on staffing levels

The fact that so many legal professionals, support staff, staff in courts, the Probate Registry and HMRC had to work from home also had a major impact on the probate process and estate administration.

Although many offices are now being staffed, the impact of Covid-19 on probate is still being felt because of the backlog experienced among surveyors, probate services, conveyancing professionals and estate agents.

There is added pressure for many estate administrators from HMRC. Inheritance Tax (IHT) on an estate must be paid within six months from the date of death and prior to Grant of Probate being issued. But, if the property is the main asset and it has to be sold before any payment to HMRC can be done, it means that many families have had to find the money to pay HMRC before they see any form of funds back from the estate. Although HMRC may accept instalments while the property is being sold (with the balance being paid once funds are available), there is still only a finite amount of time.

Online probate application

In addition to the lockdowns, solicitors, lawyers and the courts were forced to work from home which resulted in the introduction of the electronic probate forms in May 2020. The Law Society and the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) wanted legal representatives and private individuals to move over to the new online system by 18th May 2020 and submit probate applications via their new virtual paper forms. HMRC also started to send the IHT421 forms directly to the Probate Registry within 15 days of being issued.

However, there were plenty of instances where communication fell by the wayside – the legal professionals weren’t always aware the right forms had been sent to the Probate Registry and they also found HMCTS’s new online system difficult to use unless the deceased’s estate was simple.

Making a will and its execution

This is another area that was severely impacted during the pandemic. As dictated in Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837, for a will to be valid it must:

● Be in writing.
● Be signed by either the person making the will (the testator) or another person in the presence of the testator and at the direction of the testator.

In addition to this, the Act specifies that it must be signed in the presence of two or more witnesses who:

● Are present at the same time when the will is signed and they must see it signed.
● Must each attest and sign the will in the presence of the testator.

Of course, with lockdowns, social distancing and self-isolation over the past 18 months, to satisfy these requirements has become nigh on almost impossible. In Scotland, the rules were changed temporarily whereby a solicitor could act as a witness via video conference, as long as they were not an executor of the estate or any trust associated with it. However, in England and Wales, these measures were not taken, although witnessing through a window was considered acceptable.

Registering a death, applying for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, administering an estate, selling property, paying IHT, dealing with banks and sorting other financial assets; all these aspects have an impact on the families left behind. The impact of Covid-19 has only served to heighten the issue and, as we head into another winter and more potential restrictions, tensions are running high.

At Probates Online, we offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable. If you are an executor of a will and need to apply for a Grant of Probate or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.

What Is Probate and Where Do I Start?

start with probate


Have you heard the term ‘probate’ but aren’t sure what it really means?  Are you an executor of a will or have a relative passed away and you’re not sure where to start with probate?  Don’t worry, you are not alone; we’re here to help clarify what probate is and how to manage it.

Probate is essentially the legal process that any deceased person’s estate has to go through, whether there is a will or not.  But how long does probate take?  Well, that depends on a number of factors.  Firstly, the size of the deceased’s estate and secondly, whether the deceased has left a will that details his wishes, particularly in terms of who inherits what part of the estate.

One final factor to take into consideration is how long the probate service takes and currently, the average time to wait for Grant of Probate – the authority given to beneficiaries to proceed with administering the estate – is about five weeks.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process by which an estate is divided after someone has died.  The process includes any financial and physical assets, such as property, and how it is distributed to the beneficiaries. 

Generally, if there is a will whereby the deceased has detailed who is going to inherit what in terms of money, property, or any other assets, the probate process can take up to 12 months to complete.  However, if there isn’t a will in place, probate can take much longer.  What will delay the process, even more, is if there are any disputes between the beneficiaries or over the administration of the estate, which is known as contentious probate

However, there are cases where probate is not required:

  • If the estate is worth less than £10,000 and there are no shares or land as part of the estate.  If the estate is particularly small and there is only a token amount in a bank account, the bank has the discretion as to whether they need Grant of Probate to release the funds.
  • If any money, i.e. bank accounts, or property are owned jointly with a spouse or civil partner.

In reality, the threshold for probate ranges from £5,000 to £50,000.  Each bank or financial institution has its own policies regarding a deceased person’s assets.

If there is a will, an executor will have been appointed to administer the estate and apply for a Grant of Probate.  The executor can be a family member, a friend of the deceased, or the solicitor that holds the will.  If there is no will or executor, someone representing the deceased will need to apply the authority needed to administer the deceased’s estate.  This is usually the next of kin and they will need to apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’ from the court. 

There are other circumstances where letters of administration are required:

  • You have been left the entire estate;
  • There are no executors named in the will;
  • The executors are not prepared to accept the role.

Only the executor of the estate can apply for a Grant of Probate.  If there is no executor of the estate, next of kin or a close relative has to apply for letters of administration in order to handle the deceased’s estate; they are known as the administrator of the estate, not executor. 

Where do I start to apply for probate?

Once the death has been registered (which is within five days), you should apply for probate within six months of the death.  This is not because there is a time limit on applying for probate.  It is because there is a time limit on paying HMRC any Inheritance Tax that may be applicable.  In practice, reporting the estate’s value to HMRC and applying for probate is usually done at the same time as both are needed to finalise the estate.

Whether there is a will or not, the probate process is similar.  The first step is to find out the value of the estate, such as money in the bank, the deceased’s belongings, and any property held in the deceased’s name (even if it is joint names, the value still needs to be ascertained).  You will need to consider:

  • Bank accounts, pension funds and any other financial assets, such as mortgage on a property, savings and life assurance policies.
  • Any property, whether in joint names or not, will need to be valued by a local estate agent.  It is always worth getting three to four valuations.
  • Any outstanding debts, such as utilities, mortgage payments, credit cards, loans or any other monies owed by the deceased.
  • Any gifts the deceased made that are above the official allowance within the previous seven years (not including Christmas, birthday or anniversary gifts) – they may be subject to Inheritance Tax.

In most cases, you will need a copy of the death certificate and/or will to send to the relevant organisations. 

Once you have this information, it will need to be reported to HMRC who will work out if any Inheritance Tax is due.  This will also tell you if you need to apply for probate or letters of administration.  This process can take several months and a response from HMRC may take even longer.  However, once you have the valuations, have spoken to the banks and/or financial institutions, and assessed debts and gifts, you can apply for a Grant of Probate.

Applying for probate can either be done through a solicitor, often the solicitor that holds the deceased’s will or a family solicitor, or you can file for probate yourself online.  If there is a will, you will need the following to apply for probate:

  • An official copy of the death certificate (if applying online, this will be a scanned image);
  • The original will;
  • The application fee.

One point to note is that you can only apply for probate online if:

  • All the named executors are alive and able to make decisions; and
  • The deceased spent most of their life in England and Wales.

If there is no will, the next of kin or a close relative of the deceased will need to apply for letters of administration which you can do yourself via post using the form PA1A, which is a probate application form.  You can download the forms from an online probate service or from a probate registry near you. 

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable.  If you are an Executor of a will and need to apply for a Grant of Probate or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.