Probate is the process of officially proving the validity of a will; however, the following information applies equally when the deceased person died without leaving a will, in which case the grant is called 'letters of administration'.
These terms refer to a legal document that allows the person(s) named in it to collect and distribute the estate (property, money, possessions, etc.) of a deceased person.
The grant is proof that a person, or persons, named in it are entitled to collect and distribute the monies or other assets of the deceased, and may be produced to the organisations (banks, building societies, etc.) who hold those assets.
It may not be necessary to obtain a grant in the following cases:
- where a home is held in joint names and is passing by survivorship to the other joint owner
- where a joint bank or building society account is held, the production of a death certificate may be sufficient for the monies to be transferred to the joint holder
- certain institutions may release monies without a grant being produced if the amount held by the deceased is small; apply to the institution to see if they will release monies without a grant.
If the above circumstances do not apply, or if the institutions concerned inform you that a grant of probate is, or letters of administration are, required, you can choose to:
- contact a solicitor, who will arrange this for you; you can find local firms of solicitors listed in the Yellow Pages
- do it yourself; if you wish to do this yourself, please call the Probate and Inheritance Tax helpline on 0845 3020 900 or visit the Probate Service website.
For general information on preparing a will and the consequences of passing-away without having made one, as well as a flow chart stating the laws of intestacy, visit the Making a Will website.