When a person dies, probate has to be applied for, whether the deceased has left a will or not. If there is a will, the executors will apply for a Grant of Probate. If there isn’t a will, a close relative or nearest family member should apply for Letters of Administration as part of the probate process, which gives them the authority to handle the deceased’s estate.
Currently, the probate application takes 4-6 weeks to receive a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. However, the entire probate process, i.e. from the date of death to the distribution of the deceased’s estate, takes around six months for a simple will and estate. The more complex the estate, the longer it may take. So, how do you track probate applications to monitor progress?
Applying for probate
First, let’s just review how to apply for probate. In most cases, you can apply for probate online via the HM Courts & Tribunals Service, MyHMCTS. To make the application, you will need certain documents and information, including:
- The original will (if there is one) or annexed will.
- The death certificate.
- The deceased’s full name, address and date of death.
Once you have completed your online application, you will need to send the above documents to the Probate Service (MyHMCTS) so that they can verify your online application.
You will also need to complete and send the right Inheritance Tax forms to the Probate Service – these are IHT400 and IHT421 if the estate is over £5,000 and IHT200 and IHT217 inheritance tax form if it is below the value of £5,000 – who will then send them to HMRC for verification. This means that there will be little movement on the progress of your probate application until HMRC have returned the IHT forms.
There are several situations where you can’t use the online service to apply for probate. These are:
- A second grant of probate application for the same estate.
- A foreign will.
- The application is accompanied by a document to prove a copy of the will.
- The person applying is under the age of 25 years.
- The probate application is related to resealing under Colonial Probates Act 1892 and 1927, Rule 39.
Do I need to apply for probate?
Generally, if the value of the deceased’s estate is over £5,000, a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is required.
If the deceased left a will, the appointed executor(s) apply for probate but if there is no will, the next of kin or a close family member will need to apply for Letters of Administration. This grants them the authority to handle the deceased’s estate.
There are other circumstances where Letters of Administration are needed and these 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 deceased’s estate can apply for a Grant of Probate.
However, 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, an application for a Grant of Probate may not be required. Other circumstances when probate is not necessary are:
- The estate is valued at less than £5,000 and there are no shares or land as part of the estate. Suppose the estate is particularly small and there is only a token amount in a bank account. In that case, the bank has the discretion on whether they need a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to release the funds to beneficiaries.
- If any money, i.e. bank accounts or property, is owned jointly with a living spouse or civil partner.
If you’re not sure if you need to apply for probate, contact our team at Probates Online to advise you.
How to track probate applications
If you are a beneficiary of the deceased’s estate or family, it is possible to find out if a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration has been granted, but that’s all you can do. You need to be the person(s) that applied for probate to be able to track the progress of a probate application.
When you create an online account with MyHMCTS, you will create login details for your probate application process. The probate service keeps your record up-to-date with progress and will detail each step as it is completed so that you can track it. Once probate has been granted, it is good to buy a copy of the Grant of Probate (if you didn’t make that request when you applied).
The Grant of Probate will contain information that is crucial to the handling of the deceased’s estate, including:
- The date of death – this is related to the timings of administering the deceased’s estate.
- Whether the deceased was domiciled in the UK or not – for any claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents Act 1975), the deceased must have been domiciled in England or Wales.
- Whether there is a will or the deceased died intestate (without a will).
- The names of the executors/administrators who will act as defendants to any claim on a will or estate being contested.
- The net value of the deceased’s estate.
- The date probate was granted. Any claims under the above Act must be made within six months of the date probate is granted.
Having the date probate was granted will also give family and/or beneficiaries an idea of how long before they are likely to receive their inheritance.
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.