When someone dies in the United Kingdom, if they leave an estate, i.e. their assets, that is valued at more than £5,000, an application for a Grant of Probate is necessary if there is a will. If there is no will, Letters of Administration will need to be applied for, which is a form of probate.
Only an executor of a will, or next of kin if there is no will, are allowed to apply for Grant of Probate, or Letters of Administration respectively. But how long is Grant of Probate time and what other aspects can speed up or delay the process?
What is a Grant of Probate?
Grant of Probate is the official authorisation from the court that allows the executor(s) of a deceased’s will to administer their estate. This includes assessing whether any Inheritance Tax (IHT) is due to be paid and settling with HMRC, finalising the deceased’s accounts and distributing assets to beneficiaries according to the deceased’s wishes as detailed in their will.
Letters of Administration is the same as Grant of Probate but for deceaseds’ estates that do not have a will but grant the next of kin authorisation to administer the estate in the same way an executor would do so.
Is a Grant of Probate needed?
If the value of the deceased’s estate is over £5,000, then a Grant of Probate from the court is needed.
If the deceased left a will, the appointed executor(s) applies for a Grant of Probate. If there isn’t a will, the deceased’s next of kin or a family member applies for Letters of Administration; they will be called the Administrator. Both grant the recipient the authority to administer the deceased’s estate.
There are other situations where Letters of Administration are needed instead of Grant of Probate, and they 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.
It is not always necessary to apply for a Grant of Probate. For example, if the majority of the deceased’s estate is jointly owned with their living spouse or civil partner.
What is the current Grant of Probate time?
The person’s death should be registered within five days and the application for Grant of Probate must be submitted to the Probate Registry within six months. The reason for this is that any IHT due must be paid to HMRC within this time frame. So, the earlier you can apply for a Grant of Probate, the quicker you will be able to submit the relevant forms to HMRC regarding the estate’s value.
The Grant of Probate time is normally within 8 weeks from the time the application is received. The Probate Registry will start to action your application – most individuals and solicitors apply online – but you will also need to send originals of certain documents, like the death certificate. Any delay in sending these documents may result in the approval of the Grant of Probate.
When you submit your application, you will need to pay an application fee, which is currently £273 if the estate is valued at over £5,000. If below this valuation figure, there is no fee to pay. It is always advisable to purchase at least one extra copy of the Grant of Probate document (£1.50/copy) as you may need to send an original copy to other parties, such as HMRC. However, the Probate Registry is still catching up from the delays incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic so it may take a few weeks longer to receive a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
Applying for Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration
The process for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is similar. Before you apply, make sure you have:
- An official copy of the death certificate (if applying online, you can scan the certificate as an image to upload it and send the original by post);
- The original will;
- The application fee.
You can only apply for probate online if all the named executors are alive and able to make decisions and the deceased lived the majority of their life in England and Wales.
If the executor(s) or next of kin aren’t sure about applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, a solicitor is able to complete the process on their behalf. If there is a will, the process for applying is:
- Complete and submit Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration forms. It’s a good idea to complete HMRC’s inheritance tax forms at the same time. All of the forms can be submitted online but you will need to send the original documents, such as the will and death certificate, as well.
- Pay any inheritance tax due on the estate to HMRC, if applicable. The Probate Registry will liaise with HMRC to ensure this has been completed.
- Whilst waiting, pay any outstanding debt, such as utility bills, credit card balances, loans or mortgages.
- If there’s life insurance, contact the company to claim the fund’s payout as this may be enough to cover any outstanding debts and funeral costs.
At the same time, the application is being processed, advise beneficiaries of progress and contact the utility companies, banks, insurers and mortgage providers to request they close the deceased’s account. This stops any additional charges from being applied; also ask them to send a final statement.
If there is no will, the deceased’s next of kin or a close relative will need to apply for Letters of Administration which you can do yourself via post using the form PA1A, the probate application form.
At Probates Online, we offer a will writing service or a Complete Estate Service to help you through the probate process and estate administration upon the death of a loved one. If you are looking for advice on inheritance tax, gifts or trusts, or need to apply for a 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.